Our lives are based on what is reasonable and common sense;
Truth is apt to be neither.
— Christmas Humphreys
Whenever I drive cross-country, I can’t help but notice the billboards. From advertisements for Cajun restaurants, to bible verses, to tourist attractions, billboards dust the great highways of the United States, providing brief snapshots of the surrounding environment. I stopped at a few of these locations, poking into the cowboy churches of Texas and eating huevos rancheros in Albuquerque (Cecila’s café, by the way). I wanted to learn more about these foreign cities in a quiet way, mostly from an observational standpoint. After having made the drive across America several times, the first words to describe this country wouldn’t be "free" or "brave", but “diverse”.
Our diversity has many causes: location, religion, race, class, whether or not our parents stay married, if we have siblings - you get the point. Diversity leads us to develop our own perspective. We are all different genetically, and we all have our own private experiences. Our head, though it may not always feel like it, is typically a quiet space. No one knows what goes on in our minds unless we choose to share it, and it’s easy to start to view our perspective as reality. We can the logic that we’ve established within our minds as truth. But truth it is not always.
“The cause of bandha and moksha (bondage and liberation) is our own minds. If we think we are bound, we are bound. If we think we are liberated, we are liberated. . . . It is only when we transcend the mind that we are free from all these troubles.”
- Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras
I once stressed for weeks worrying that a good friend was angry with me. I wondered why she never initiated hangouts, or why she never wanted to talk to me about her emotions. In my head, this meant that she didn’t trust me, or didn’t feel like I was someone she could be close to. It was a very egocentric way of thinking; I was projecting my own fears onto my friend’s perception. I was, as they say, taking it personally. It turned out that there was nothing wrong. While I had grown up in an emotional household (tearful fights, lots of ‘I love you’, family meetings), hers was more reserved. We were different. By stepping away from my perspective, I was able to see the bigger picture.
By examining diversity, and understanding that each person is made up of individual experience, history and genetics, we’re able to approach our fellow humans with curiosity rather than indifference, compassion instead of criticism. What is your perspective? How have your experiences shaped the person you’ve become thus far?
By making it a point to habitually ask ourselves these questions, to step away from our minds, we uncover the ideological ideas that inform our perspective. Ask questions. Travel down the unexplored road with curiosity and enthusiasm. The further you drive, the more billboards you see.