Tag Archives: Diversity

3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Agree with Everything You Read

CloudCoverRecently I had a conversation with someone who doesn’t understand my tendency to read blogs and books written by people with whom I disagree. Why not focus on everyone who sees the world exactly the way that you do?

Well, many of the writers I follow do agree with me. There’s comfort in spending time with people who share your beliefs and don’t need lengthy explanations about X, Y or Z.

With that being said here are 3 reasons why it’s beneficial to read stuff that ruffles your feathers, too:

1. You might be wrong. I might be wrong, too! There’s value in holding opinions in the palm of your hands instead of in a clenched fist. Occasionally I’ve  changed my opinion midstream when the person I’m speaking with introduces me to a new way of looking at the topic. Even if everyone walk away with no changes to our ideas we will at least know how others think.

2. They’re good writers. Knowing how to clearly communicate through the written word is a gift.  I’ve winced through far too many poorly-constructed books, blog posts and essays in my 29 years to continue giving them my attention. At this point I’d much rather focus on story-tellers (fiction and non-fiction alike) who know this craft well enough to creatively break the rules.

3.  Friendly disagreement sharpens your mind. Disagreement doesn’t always mean conflict and  conflict isn’t always bad. Once one begins to temper the urge to always be right there is so much we can learn from examining what it is we believe and why it is we believe it. It takes a long time for me to grow comfortable enough to do this with other people as it can lead you to quite vulnerable places. The list of folks who have made it so far is fairly small (and even they know not to push certain topics) but the rewards are long-lasting.

 

 

The Problem With Moving Away

Photo by Dave Morris

Seven years ago I moved 350 miles away from the small town where I spent the second half of my childhood.

This was something I started thinking about almost as soon as we moved there. It wasn’t a dangerous or terrible place to live by any means…I was just never very good at small town life. I like being able to go to the grocery store without running into anyone I know, to never be asked why I don’t share a last name with my husband, go to church or have kids.

I love the anonymity and creativity of Toronto.  Here I’m surrounded by people who, even if they don’t share my proclivities, genuinely don’t care what it is I do (or believe) so long as I’m not harming anyone else against their will.

This. Is. Amazing. 10, 15 years ago I had no idea I’d end up with this kind of freedom.

But…

Then I go home for a visit. The town I grew up in hasn’t changed very much. Many of the people I grew up with still live there or in similar places elsewhere in the midwest.

Most of my non-traditional (for lack of a better term) friends have also moved away. I grok why this happens. If I moved back now I’d either have to be really, really quiet about huge swaths of my life or pull a Bruce Gerenscer and be the brunt of a delightful mixture of pity, scorn and failed conversion attempts. 😉

After my recent trip back home, though, I wonder if small towns don’t need more Bruce Gerenscers.

Does he perplex people?

Yes.

Does he aggravate them?

Yes.

Does he make them think?

Hell yes.

I don’t really do that on a daily basis. City-dwellers are surrounded by so many different points of view that it’s more difficult for them to assume that everyone agrees with their beliefs. It’s hard to surprise them.

As much as I love this sometimes I think it’s better if us “shocking” people stay put. It’s much easier to dislike a label than it is to dislike a neighbour, family member, or friend.

There’s real value in being the only X in town, in putting a human face on a mistrusted minority group.

I just don’t want to do it personally.

Respond

What have been your experiences as the odd one out in your community? Why did you move away? Why did you stay?

A Response to Picking Up the Best Bits

Photo by Joe Ravi, license CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Olivia at Reading in the Bath recently had something interesting to say about her experiences with online childfree groups:

So one of the things I’ve enjoyed about sticking around in a few different groups for a while and getting past all the (to me) slightly awkward ‘I like children…with sauce’ jokes, is that I’ve found there are many other people who don’t come from a place of hatred or hostility either.

To be honest my sexual orientation and non-theism tend to surprise others much more often than my decision not to have children.

But there are certain similarities between being childfree and being part of other minority groups or subcultures.  Answering the same questions over and over again grows repetitive and there are times when I wonder, “why is s/he so focused on this one issue instead of everything else we have in common?”

This is where it really helps to have relationships with other people who are also members of group X and grok why I’m so frustrated (or confused, thrilled, or irritated!)

Just like Olivia says, though, sometimes you have to filter the wheat from the chaff. I’m not an angry person and I don’t dwell on the offensive stuff other people say or do.  These things happen.

Angry people aren’t the majority, though. From what I’ve seen for every person looking for a reason to be offended there are two or three who just want to live in peace. The problem is that when the media or the rest of society notices group X they tend to seek out the most controversial, outspoken member they can find. It’s good for ratings and page views and, to be honest, the rest of us are often not as interested in outside attention.

And so the rest of the world continues to assume the worst about group X while those of us who are actually living it roll our eyes and continue on with our daily lives.

The Ethics of Being on Time

I’ve been having an internal debate about the intersection of ethics and culture.

Punctuality is something I take pretty seriously. 15 minutes early is on time, arriving on time is late for me.

A few minutes here or there isn’t a big deal but being chronically late eventually says something to me about how much the other person values our relationship.

This is where my self-argument begins:

“Ok, but what about people who live in cultures where time is more fluid? Do you really think they are all horribly rude?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Cultural expectations matter. I grew up in a culture that believes that being habitually late is incredibly rude. Ignoring that rule over and over again eventually says something about your character.”

“Why?”
“Because getting along with other people is part of living in a social group. There are rules we all must follow in order to facilitate this. Purposefully breaking them like this sends a pretty clear message:
I don’t care how my actions affect the people around me. My habits are more important than your time, our relationship or anything else.
And that’s a pretty unkind way to live. “

“Ok, but what if you wake up tomorrow and decide to dress up like Bilbo Baggins? Most people don’t wear costumes every day – is breaking that rule rude?”

“No. Rules that don’t actually harm others are negotiable. People might stare or wonder why I decided to dress that way if it isn’t Halloween but no one is actually going to be hurt by a hobbit costume. ”

 

There does come a time when even small annoyances like being constantly late negatively affects your relationships. If I can’t count on (general) you to be on time when we decide to meet for dinner or a movie how can I depend on you for far more important stuff?

What it boils down to is that how you treat someone in the small things is how I’m going to assume you feel about the big stuff. Anyone can say that they care but what shows how someone actually feels is in how they act when it would be more convenient to do something that helps them but harms someone else. (Yes, this applies to me, too. 😉 )

Respond

What do you think? Am I being too harsh here? Can you think of other examples of behaviour that is acceptable in one culture and rude in another?

Embrace the Shame

As far back as I can remember I’ve lived with one foot in imaginary places. Whenever the world around me quiets down enough for thoughts to form (and sometimes even when it doesn’t) I stitch together stories in my mind.

No two have ever been quite alike. If I don’t like the direction a story is headed I begin again from the first scene to create something better. I tell myself stories that are funny, sad, outlandish, as cliched as I could possibly make them and as unique as I dare. I tell stories as I go to sleep and pick them back up again while getting dressed or eating breakfast in the morning.

Sometimes as a kid I’d whisper the lines or scene I was working on to see if they sounded as good out in the open. It was something I was deeply ashamed of growing up, though. No one else I knew crafted stories like this or, if they did, they never talked to themselves while figuring out a particularly tricky plot point. At 11 or 12 I’d cycle through these feelings, promise to put away childish things and never do it again and then slide back into storytelling a day, week, month later. Life without story-telling was and is:

  • Eating the same meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the rest of your life.
  • A vocabulary of 100 words, 90 of which are about the weather.
  • Eternal February.

I assumed that other people had internal dialogues rarely if ever* and that there was something unhealthy about continuing to make up stories after puberty. Like an early bedtime or training wheels on a bike it only seemed appropriate for kids half my age and yet I had zero interest in what I thought I should be thinking about as an adolescent: clothing. makeup. boys. dating. calories.

*I’ve since learned this isn’t true!

It sounds nonsensical now but this bothered me for years. More than anything I wanted to blend in, to think the way other people thought. Being different wasn’t a perky slogan or a beat marched to with pride back then it was something to try to get rid of (or hide well) at the first opportunity.

I began to grow more comfortable in my own skin as I stopped worrying so much about the thoughts I thought were rolling around in the heads of everyone else. What mattered was this: I like telling stories and hashing them out has never hurt anyone.

If it’s weird, well, there are far more destructive things that I could be doing with my time.

Respond

Do you have any slightly eccentric habits or personality quirks that you’ve always felt a little ashamed of? How did you learn to resist the urge to compare your thoughts with how other people behave in public?

The Grammar of Purple People

We hate some persons because we do not know them; and we will not know them because we hate them. –Charles Caleb Colton When we envision a person we generally assume that, of course, the individual in question is: Male Christian Middle Class Cisgendered Straight Able-Bodied Neurotypical Caucasian Intelligent Healthy And probably a few other things… Read More

Poverty Museum

I recently re-visited our local natural and world history museum and was struck by what narrow slices of history were up for public viewing. Imagine if our society was only shown through the homes and possessions of  movie stars and high-ranking government officials a thousand years from now. The picture it would paint of life… Read More