We can thank some Dane for the idea, but there are now Human Libraries in over 50 countries. These are a wonderful idea, where people can sign out a person for a half hour conversation. And we can do this just to learn about what their life is like.
While this is designed around the idea of people becoming more familiar with, and more comfortable with, very different types of people, it could also work for very similar people. It could accomplish that because there are two other important side-benefits other than the gain in general knowledge.
The first beautiful thing about this is that the process itself encourages people to truly listen. If we’re the interviewer, then we’re inviting the interviewee into our consciousness. In that space, if we’ve officially come to listen –by appointment- then it’s easier for our brain to focus and avoid rudely self-talking over top of them in our minds.
Ideally, if we’re the listener, we want to be doing nothing but listening. Then, no matter what we hear, just that level of awareness alone is of great meditative value.
We want to be like a crane, standing perfectly still in the water, as the other person’s life swims by in words.
We want to study each word as though it contains the potential to feed our souls by unlocking some realization. Then, when we see our ‘word-fish’ swim by, we will suddenly feel an insight strike.
With that realization we can suddenly find ourselves struck with remarkable clarity about some truth that the other person is communicating. It’s that truth that connects us to them.
That sense of understanding is the feeling of our empathy docking with the other person. It is an actual psycho-spiritual force that binds us together in understanding. It’s compassion and faith made into verbs.
The second benefit is that, while the first person benefits from the act of listening, the second benefits from being heard. Sharing positive and creative ideas always feels good. But life includes mundane days, and bad ones.
On those days it can be very helpful for people to know there is still enough compassion to keep the lines of communication open. We need others more when we are down than when we are up.
Even if it’s by a stranger, being heard reminds us that we maintain our value even when we’re down. Too often, simply by taking others for granted and by lacking presence, people can feel unheard and unrecognized even if they are surrounded by genuinely loving friends and family.
Learning to be more aware of others is important because, even if we are struggling and nothing can be done about our circumstances, we all feel better if we’re not facing life alone. Even if that’s only in spirit.
We need that service from our tribe because too few people operate from a place of having enough self-value. Most of us have egos that were raised by our societies to think we are wrong and broken and filled with sin and regret. But those are all concepts we need our thinking to create.
What we really are is human. Our lives aren’t filled with successes and mistakes. Those are just the well-intentioned right and left footsteps created by our movement through life. And we can all relate to that. That’s why we can all find each others stories fascinating. Because we’ve all taken those good and bad steps.
We can all relate to an up and down life of successes and failures. What makes each of them interesting is that every journey is through different terrain.
What is normal to us is abnormal to others. In this way, humanity is the greatest collection of stories that has ever existed. It’s good they’re finally getting read. Make sure there are people in your life to read yours.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.