How We See The World

This is not a post about the glass being half empty or half full. What this post is about is where your eyes look out from, metaphorically. What I mean is that some people view the world only from their perspective, some from only certain people’s perspective, some from a global perspective, and many others. Our perspective is largely defined by our culture, though it can be refined or radically altered by our experiences. Western culture rather favors the individualistic view, while Eastern culture favors the communal view. This isn’t to say that Westerners don’t ever think communally and Easterners don’t ever think individualistically, it just means that it isn’t the initial thought process. (I’m also going to say at this point that I think the human species is rather individual-oriented as far as an individual can benefit before losing out to what established communal resources would require non-directly returned benefits. As that isn’t easy to make sense of, think of a community of two individuals: a hunter-defender and a gatherer-builder. Together they can sustain themselves in relative comfort by sharing, while apart they can keep all for themselves and live a harsher life. My thought is that they only share as much as is required to reap the benefits of what the other provides. It’s oversimplified, but I hope it illustrates the point).

(One tangent aside, I’ll get back on track by discussing how I view the world.)

I’m rather towards the middle of the two viewpoints, and so I generally consider both. For example, in my last post about dancing, it isn’t just that I get embarrassed about dancing in the company of others due to a lack of skill, but that it would be displeasing to them to see such a display. Many things I consider rude are due to a lack of considering a communal view in your actions. I’m a programmer, but I’m also a cultural and linguistic enthusiast. This means that I try to take internationalization into account for anything I do. You can design a website in English and have translation files for every text on the page, but if you forget to scale things, especially buttons, to the length of the translated word or phrase, suddenly your website looks like crap, or worse, only a subset of the translation will display which may be worse than wrong or outright offensive.

Most people will only consider a communal view when they think it is a big decision or know it will affect people other than just themselves. The thing is that we live in a universe where the only closed loop system is the universe itself, and even that may not be true. What I’m saying is that there is no escaping the butterfly effect. Obviously due to the massiveness of the system we live in, we can’t consider the entire chain reaction of events that will propagate from all of our actions or even a single one, but we can consider many events to a significant outcome. I live in an apartment complex, therefore I consider every vibration, noise, and smell I make. Honestly, I don’t like living quite this close to people, but since I am, I take measures to refrain from doing anything that would be offensive in those terms as if I were the one receiving them. Every time I go outside, I take note of every person I see and their direction, including vehicles. I try to make sure that I don’t disturb them with music, reflections, walking too close, or running into them (the last two with vehicles means risking being ran over mind you). They seem like little things, but they add up to a more pleasant world. Too many people think of them as unnecessary kindnesses, whereas I think of them as politenesses, of which some may be rude to ignore.

I feel as though I’ve not really done this topic justice, as if there are too many examples and not enough concepts. I suppose what I’m saying is that people should consider things from perspectives greater than if someone else were in their shoes and those that they want praise/fear reproach/fear hurting/etc. Consider those that mean nothing to you; you don’t have to set them above or even equal to any of the other groups, just consider them at all. Maybe in time you’ll begin to value those strangers. If you accept yourself as being part of something larger, divides tend to shrink. It stops being you and them, and just starts being us. The divides don’t have to disappear completely either; sometimes they just need to shrink enough to realize what really matters. For instance, if I were to say some people died, there are only two answers I really care about: did I have a connection to them (either directly or through friends and family) and why did it happen (to determine guilt)? If it was a freak accident (thus no guilt) and I had no connection to any of them, it doesn’t matter in the slightest what their nationality, race, religion, gender, or age was: they were people, and they died. This isn’t about dehumanizing them; it’s about disregarding useless facts. Who they were matters so much more than any of those attributes I mentioned. Most news agencies don’t see it that way though. Sadly, too many people follow the news agencies’ thought.