Eye to Eye
When giving advice, we often say if I were you, I would blah blah blah. But can I be you? The thing is, if I really am you, I would do the same thing you’d do originally and that renders my advice redundant. If, on the other hand, the advice is based on my experience, I would not be you in the first place.
And mind you, most of the time people don’t need advice. More common purposes are seeking confirmation, permission, or moral support. Unsolicited advice, therefore, is the worst: it inadvertently undermines the agency of the unfortunate receiver. On the giver’s side, the act itself actually gratifies our deep desire for power, a sense of superiority. That partly explains why we love to counsel.
Giving and receiving advice turns out to be a wacko transaction peculiar to a species called homo sapiens.
Speaking of superiority, I’d often find myself saying this: if I were in his shoes, I certainly wouldn’t have done that. Saying that is a boob, and the person saying that is yet a bigger boob. I’ve learned that putting myself in someone else’s shoes goes to an extent far beyond some specific circumstances.
What does it really mean to say if I were in his shoes?
It means to be born and raised by the same parents (or to have no parents at all), nudged here and there through life by the same concatenation of random events, and dictated by the same chemical reactions in the brain, triggered when a certain situation arises, to name but a few. In other words, we don’t know diddly-squat about what it’s like to be others.
Nobody is superior, nobody is inferior, but nobody is equal either. People are simply unique, incomparable. You are you, I am I.
We perceive the reality differently. We never see the same apple: its color and connotation depend on how our brains are wired and whence we come. There is no sameness when it comes to human experience. There will always be nuances, and perhaps more correctly, oceans of discrepancy in the ways we see things. Indeed, our image of the outside world is filtered through lenses crystallized from years of personal experiences, distorted by culturally formed biases, and physically influenced by innate nervous wiring.
In this light, I think it’s funny how we’re so naturally prone to condemn others, especially on social media where we barely know each other and are ignorant of the full context.
At the end of the day, is it not a blessed relief not having to see eye to eye with everyone on everything? A better use of our eyes, perhaps, is seeing and acknowledging others as distinct individuals. True, down right to the atomic level we’re exactly the same, yet each hominid bundle of atoms constructs an entity that’s like no other. Accept just that, and we may be free.