The more you think about it, black and white dichotomies of who we believe ourselves to be, or who we believe others to be, make no sense.
We are all familiar with the ‘why’ exercise; that when you ask why something is the case long enough to each answer that you eventually end in an existential crisis of not knowing why anything exists at all. Louis CK humorously tells a story of his daughter asking simple questions that turn into deep angst.
I’ve realized this sort of deconstruction of meaning works the same way for self-awareness and stereotypes. Whenever I think I deserve anything, even the smallest little thing, all I have to do is ask myself why I deserve it and my argument falls apart very quickly. Here is a sample: I deserve my salary.
How come? Because I work hard for it.
Why do you work hard for it? Because I want the benefits I get from it.
Why do you want those benefits? Because I like them.
Why do you like them? Because I always have.
Why have you always? Because I was raised that way.
Why were you raised that way? Because my parents….
And then there you have it. Eventually, the reason for even your basic desires is the result of someone else’s doing, that has nothing to do with you. This example could go many different ways. My point is though, that no matter what answers you give about the reasons behind your own life, or someone else’s, it is always dependent on someone else. Always. In some ways this makes me a determinst.
This realization is the first step in humility and gratefulness; two of the most important traits for any mature human to have, that so many of us lack. These traits come because of an honest reflection of where you came from and who you are. You come from someone else, you are a result of someone else, and nothing you have done or exerted into the world created you or caused everything you have.
The backstory goes infinitely. The further back, the more mysterious things are but the more respect we should have. For me, this is one of the reasons I’ve been intrigued and learning to understand history, especially of the place that I find myself in and especially the indigenous stories and people around me. I have been trying to learn not to take things for granted. I have been more engaged in stories that have a healthy view of where they came from.
This type of thinking also works in the reverse. When people feel insecure, or when people think poorly of others — these negative things are not a reflection of just their decisions. No one is poor because they chose to be poor in a vacuum without an entire history and backstory to how they got to where they are today.
When you really look back at my life. While I certainly have agency, even that agency is a result of an upbringing and a lot of pieces working together to create environments that I just have responded to. I think in philosophy class, this perspective would have induced some depression or fecklessness in the fact that I am not in control, I don’t have free will or that I’m somehow not responsible for my actions. However, at this point in my life, I am seeing that it has created a sense of responsibility to those who have gone before me, a gratefulness towards pretty much everything and a peace towards the things I cannot control.