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We CAN All Just Get Along, We Just Have to Try July 12, 2012

Posted by craftlass in beliefs, life lessons, people, relationship.
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Being who I am, if I restricted myself to socializing with people who agree with me on most things, I wouldn’t have a social life. Even worse, I would be stuck, like so many people are, in a bubble. Still worse, I would spend my life being so much angrier than I am. Oh, I’m angry about a lot of things and find plenty more to be angry about every day, but for the most part my anger is directed at media, politicians, religious leaders, group-think, and generally people who use their power to harm or oppress.

I cherish my friends who might seem on paper like people I could never get along with. For example, two women who I absolutely adore are Catholic. One is more in-line with the Church’s positions on things, one is a bit of a maverick, but they both know my opinions on their religion, that I was raised in it, and left the second I could for very good reasons. I have the utmost respect for both women and value their opinions on many subjects, even ones we will never see eye-to-eye on. We also have a lot in common, that’s how we found each other online and bonded. I met both in-person at different NASA Tweetups (now called Socials) at Kennedy Space Center and we just clicked like we had online, which deepened our relationships immensely. With one of them I’ve had many long debates on the things we disagree about and enjoyed every bit of them.

The thing is, if you don’t have calm, rational debates with people you disagree with, how can you truly hold a position? If how you feel about something can be broken down just by hearing the other side then maybe you didn’t believe it in the first place. If someone simply disagreeing with you makes you want to lash out, that’s your problem and you need to work on your own issues. You can’t educate anyone if you attack, either. Once a person is in a defensive position it’s very hard to learn anything or even fully comprehend the attack.

The wisest, kindest, and most thoughtful priest I ever knew took me aside when I was in 2nd grade and getting into major trouble in my Catholic school for deeply questioning the faith I’d been born into. He listened to my concerns and answered with, “Unquestioned faith is no faith at all. Keep questioning everything.” While I have wound up without a faith, his wisdom still resonates in me. I apply it to many aspects of my life and it gets me through moments of indecision and second-guessing.

Why, yes, I did say that one of the best lessons this atheist learned in life came from a priest. See? Even people you disagree with can add a lot of value to your life if you just give them the chance to speak their minds. They challenge you, give you perspective, and keep you out of that damn bubble.

The only things I require of any friend or potential friend are an open mind, respect for both our similarities and differences, tolerance for each other’s flaws, and a sense of humor. Okay, the last part is actually the most important. Laughter can get you through just about anything!

In the end, not only do I celebrate the differences between many people and me, but I keep coming to the same conclusion: We have more in common than not. All people, no matter their affiliation or background, have more in common than not, when you get down to the real person hiding behind whatever labels society may affix to them. Travel is the greatest teacher of this, but just getting to know your neighbors can give you a great lesson in it.

Of course there are people I like more than others and people who I will never get along with. That’s the nature of life and being human. That doesn’t mean I or anyone should ever be purposefully rude or unkind to any of them and it’s not that hard to be tactful and polite while staying true to yourself.

I’ve never been a big joiner, I prefer solo sports and video games, working for myself or a small business, and keeping my options open in every way. I’m sort of a loner with a talent for socializing that hides my anxieties about it. Still, I believe in inclusion and never taking gossip to heart, I’d rather try to get to know someone before making up my mind about him or her. Gossip is poison in the form of a giant game of Operator, only it’s not a game at all, and we can all get sucked into that trap far too easily.

Maybe that’s why I don’t like joining groups much. From what I can tell, most operate with a social structure that breeds gossip, divisiveness, and hurt feelings when someone is left out or the group forms a hierarchy. It’s a shame, as people can do more good when joined together by a common cause, but then all of these things start flourishing and can turn even the most noble group into a monster that resembles a high school cafeteria more than an adult venture.

On the other hand, I do love being surrounded by intelligent, thoughtful, and interesting people of all kinds and working together to make good things happen. It’s the only way to effect real change. All of my music, at it’s essence, is based on that. I might be writing about space or science or religion or politics, but at the core of every song is a human story inspired by the people I’m so lucky to have in my life. This very blog post was inspired by a multitude of individual conversations with a few different people.

I love people. All people. We’re amazing. We have thoughts and feelings and the capability to explore everything from ourselves to the universe surrounding us. We’ve come a long way in just a few million years! We also have a long way to go as long as we don’t blow everyone up. You can choose to be part of the effort of advancement or you can stay mired in where we are now, because you have a human brain that can make decisions.

“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.” – Bob Marley

So, my advice to everyone everywhere (including myself) is to be a little less quick to judge, a little more open to listening to anyone, a bit more polite to all, and to learn about a topic from all angles before deciding on your own opinion. Getting to know who people really are is the most effective way to reduce the amount of anger and hatred in this world, and doesn’t that benefit us all?

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