SUPERFICIAL UNDERSTANDING

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

–J. R. R. Tolkien

            We bring our attention from where ever it is to train it upon the person before us. Immediately we begin to judge them by everything from their clothing, hair style , make up, manner of dress, dental hygiene, body aroma, choice of perfume or cologne, mannerisms, manners, and the list continuous almost endlessly.  Within moments, most have decided whether they will offer a cordial greeting, hire, or decide to marry them; all from a moments observation. In that same moment, all of the training, education, phobias, psychosis, neurosis, and everything ever read or sensed and formed a perception about, is used to make this assessment. The question is; how valid is the conclusion?

When first impressions prove themselves correct, over time it aids in forming a convincing delusion that first impressions are always correct. Of course awareness that any statements which include the words always or never are to be scrutinized carefully since almost nothing is always or never. This awareness does not preclude the formation of the delusional always and never, or hanging onto the belief that the conclusion drawn is a valid and accurate one. Hence, sometimes the person drawing the conclusion finds themselves in a position of regret. Perhaps this is not about first impressions and/or appearances at all, but about the capacity to trust.

Delving into the assessment processes utilized at first impressions, one might discover that it is laden with one’s biases, prejudices, preconceived ideas about what is right or wrong based upon religious, political and philosophical viewpoints, as well as many of the mimicked and pantomime behaviors of those teachers we have met throughout life. It is rational to view perceptive powers as a hodge-podge of mixed and matched viewpoints that are more often than not, not our own. Nor is this unusual as this is the way that we all learn and emulate what is acceptable and will insure our being part of society. After all, Maslow’s hierarchy of psychological needs list belonging as number three (Abraham Maslow).

The drive to belong is very strong which can be attested to by the number of organizations, groups, churches/temples which exist, and the influence of peer pressure. One might conclude that belonging is such a strong need, that others would be encouraged to freely join; but instead we become elitist within our groups, declaring ours to be the best ever created in its design and intent and determine that only those of the highest caliber might enter. This exclusionary behavior aimed at our brethren is merciless in design and expresses a disdain for those like us, of the same species, learned and handed down for unknown generations. Who was the first to believe that someone else was different and unworthy of being a part of the group? As word spread, what horrific thing was the cause for the majority to think that they were different enough to ostracize from the clan? This belief which has passed down through each generation on both sides of the argument, thereafter naming each other as unworthy and therefore labeled, enemy rather than friend or at the least, not trustworthy. Ultimately, it is about the trustworthiness of the individual that we form our instant assessments of them.  This rapid fire, mental process based upon antiquated memories is used to judge each other. The problem with this technique is it is based upon our experience about others from our past and has nothing to do with the person we are dealing with in the present moment, yet we operate as if it does. The distrust of people we have been involved with, stories of friends, relatives and acquaintances and their betrayals, is what we are using to judge this person before us in the present moment. If in a court of law, during jury selection, such a person with these strong preconceived notions would be prevented from participating as a juror, but, we fail our new associate because there is no one to protect them from our prejudices.

I may have mentioned my friend Eddy in other blogs, but to refresh your memory, I will tell the story of how Eddy and I became friends once again. This happened probably about 35 years ago. I had recently moved into an apartment when I was told that the guy in apartment number four was a thief and to be careful of him. I, believing in taking the lion by the mane, knocked on Eddy’s door and addressed him stating that I had been told of his career as a thief and that if anything of mine ever disappeared, whether he took it or not, he would be held responsible. Shortly thereafter, Eddy knocks on my door with a housewarming gift; a huge glass ashtray on a pedestal stand, with the handle over the top, the kind that used to adorn the lobbies of hotels. I asked him where did he had gotten it and to my surprise he honestly answered that he had stolen it from a hotel and brought it to me as a peace offering! I quickly reprimanded him asking him to return it since I wasn’t happy that he was a thief and didn’t want to be the reason for more thieveries. He actually returned the ashtray to its rightful owner and returned to my apartment with profuse apologies for having displeased me! Over the next two years our friendship grew, Eddy and his wife Beulah would stop by often to share some small offering with us and he never stole anything from my family as long as we knew him. As a matter of fact, according to Beulah, there was a great decrease in the amount of stealing he did. I could not believe I could be such a strong, determining factor in the behavior of someone else; but I was still rather young at the time. Of course, now I know I influence peoples’ behaviors many times.

Therefore, when we find ourselves passing judgment from the automated modus operandi, perhaps we should question if this is the best way to determine another’s inherent value. Thieves have become honest persons and honest persons have become thieves, as all depends on the choice any of us make in the moment. Perhaps a kind response to another in the moment of first meeting, rather than judgment, might open the door of choice to escort in a lifelong friend.

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