There were other smaller signs steadily after the accident, but it wasn’t until Junior High School that I started to have mature enough experiences that the differences between me and others was becoming strange. I was confused hearing people described as too…. Too tall, too fat, too talkative, too mean, too quiet, too untrustworthy, too smart, or their stories were too big.
I knew by then words were very important to how people saw the world, but it would be years before I would realise that everyone I was watching was taking their own thoughts seriously; that they had no separation between their thoughts and their life. I could only be in alignment with them using the word too if we had a context. There are just simply times when Simon is too big to fit through a hole, or Beth is too tall for the uniform. That I understood.
When I got confused was when someone used too when they spoke of someone else, away from others (gossip). With no context I didn’t understand how someone could be too anything. To what standard was the person measured? Who set it, and why is it there? Certainly I understood politeness was a form of social dancing, where everyone more or less knew their role. And I knew that culture was taught and that it evolved as it was passed from generation to generation, but to me those were like a communication system that gave people a starting place for each new meeting. But what was too?
Of course, eventually I figured out that the thing they were comparing everyone to was their own personal ideal. It wasn’t even how they thought the other person could be a better person. The frustrations and demands and judgment was all about the other person doing what the person judging them wanted them to do. I went through those motions sometimes, but it never occurred to me to see my perspective on it as a universal truth.
If the want being sated was based on any personal gain, then I couldn’t identify with hurting someone else to elevate myself. But if the person was in pain, here again I could re-connect with people, because that was an experience I knew from my own life. In fact, to me, anguish was defined as a period of time during which I took my thinking too seriously. But once I felt better I was fully aware that my judgment was an illusory expectation painted onto that other person–it wasn’t the actual person. (This makes forgiving much easier.) Again, no one was too anything.
Too tall is statuesque to some. Too fat is cuddly to others. People that talk a lot take pressure off shy people. Mean people are often hurt people who have high degrees of empathy once they learn to get distance from their thinking. Quiet can be contemplative. Untrustworthiness can exist as a positive or negative force. Too smart is a form of deferential respect, and exaggerations are so common they’re why every 30 year old discovers that life isn’t much like we’d been lead to believe when we were younger. It’s much more… practical than that. In the end, we’re hunter-gatherers with a good imagination. We still need purpose, and we still experience our thinking as the world.
Listen today to your own voice. Don’t just form words, have the real you monitor what your ego says. Observe your own behaviour and recognise the ephemeral connection between thought and your daily life experience. You’ll still be you, making most of the same “mistakes,” (also known as being you). But increased awareness can prevent you from developing, reinforcing or sharing your judgments about someone else’s identity, because those will only ever be true within your own consciousness. We should free others from having to live in the shadow of our expectations. There are just too many of us making the request at the same time.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.