Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Outside the Box

I heard a Dilbert-esque joke once about a guy who worked in a large corporate office... The kind with the small cubicles. Well, I guess one day in a one-on-one meeting, his boss told him that he should become more of an abstract thinker. "You know, Bob, think outside the box," he told him.

Bob infatically replied, "But Jim, I spend all day IN a box, for cryin' out loud!"

One thing that I've noticed as I talk to various people or drive around town is that most of us are definitely in our own little box. I will overhear some conversation about "what I deserve" or "my idea". I'll be driving and some maniac on their cell phone tries to change lanes at the same time I'm occupying it and drive on like I don't exist, which is probably true in their little piece of reality. I catch myself only thinking about me a lot, too, how "I don't talk or drive like that."

I mean, technically, that shouldn't come as a surprise seeing as how we're all stuck inside our bodies. Our brains only process things from our point of view. There are ancient philosophies from Plato and others stating that life is just our perspective, a mere shadow or one side of the totality of reality. Later philosophers slightly changed that to the "brain in a jar" ideology that electrodes could be triggering senses, thoughts and emotions to where we aren't really controlling our lives physically, but being driven by some sort of puppet master, a la The Matrix. This led to the ever insightful statement by Descartes: Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am... Why is Latin always in italics?). In other words, I may be a brain in a jar or a real human being, but the fact is, I must exist because they're my thoughts, not someone else's.

But I digress to make one simple point: we are a very self-centered creature. So how do we overcome this in order to be more peaceable, loving, humble humans? Well, my thought on this (pun intended) is that all of our senses may give feedback to our central nervous system, but they are mostly pointed outward away from us. This is by design. You wouldn't want to have your eyes pointing back inside your nasal cavity... That would be gross. But you'd probably blow your nose a lot more. I digress again. These senses are are made so we can understand the world around us better by interacting with God's creation.

But more specifically, the Bible spends a lot of real estate on how we treat our neighbor. Those five senses (six, if you're Haley Joel Osment) can be directed towards other people we come into contact with every day or once in a blue moon. God wants us to get to know one another and see how they think, feel, understand the world around them. We need to get outside of our own little world more often and try to see things from other people's perspective. This goes especially when we're angry, as was stated in a recent Living Church News article, "Watch Out, I'm Angry!" So how do we do this? Communication for starters... Be willing to put aside the anger long enough to humble yourself in order to talk to the individual. See where they're coming from. If repeated, you'll eventually start seeing that people rarely go out of their way to make you mad. Most likely, they're either completely ignorant of the fact they offended you, they had a different outcome in mind, or they made a terrible mistake and are ashamed. Talking to them will clear the air on one or both sides and help your relationship to go back to a more normal one, maybe even a friendlier one.

When we are able to put ourselves in other people's shoes, in their box, we may better see why they've made the decisions they have. Then we may very well see how God is using that person's personality, thoughts and actions to lead them down the path toward His Kingdom... It just happens to be different than the way we would do it.

The more I try to look at the world through other people's eyes, I can see what's motivating a person's thoughts and it removes the instinctive "THEY WERE TRYING TO ANGER/HURT/KILL ME!!!!" reaction that initially gets us mad. Perhaps when that so-and-so cuts you off in traffic, he was avoiding a dog in the road and didn't see you in their blind spot. When someone makes a rude comment to you, they may have been cut off by a dog-avoiding driver earlier in the day and are still tense from it. And every once in a while, I see someone going out of their way to help someone else, but they just happen to get in my way in the process. I've had to change my internal monologue from "Jerk..." to "Oh, that was nice" more than a few times. However, a lot of times, I just see that people are just living in their own little worlds just like I am. I guess that makes it easier for me to understand where they're coming from. It makes me pray that God will open up our minds to the way He sees all situations and help us to think more about our neighbor so we can be more courteous, hospitable, loving and forgiving... Like He is.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Mike, your post was too long for me to read through right now (the library has time limits), but I wanted to wish you a happy Sabbath!