Part 2: The Difference Between Narrow- Mindedness and Ignorance

(Part 1)

Ignorance

They recognise their own ignorance: There is no shame in acknowledging that we are all ignorant – whether we are rich or poor, male or female, able or disabled, from the frigid North Pole to the scorching hot dunes of the Sahara, we are all ignorant about something. Despite what you’ve been hearing from the hyper-political media of today, ignorance knows no people group. It’s okay to acknowledge this reality. Not only is this okay but recognising the ignorance inside all of us can humble and unify us.

However, if we allow ourselves to think that we are more ignorant than we really are, we might turn ourselves into the victims of narrow-minded people – this can happen to people who are in manipulative relationships with their “friends”, or even with their own family members. These are narrow-minded people who choose to remain willfully blind to their own ignorance so that they can gleefully revel in yours. They can make themselves look like the good guy to you because they make you feel guilty for things that you shouldn’t feel bad about. For example, maybe you’re a man who has to deal with a third-wave feminist telling you that you are part of the “tyrannical” patriarchy.

If you suspect that you are the victim of someone who fits the criteria of a narrow-minded person, don’t be afraid to be sincere and stand up for yourself. If you don’t, you will continuously feel like the impossible is being expected from you. You will be like a rubber band that the other person tries to stretch beyond your limit. Once you snap, you will backlash into their face making them angrier at you than they were before. If you feel like you are being stretched too thin don’t hide your true feelings for too long. Even if you’re aware that you don’t know this person’s experience, don’t doubt that you are in the right by calling him or her out for their closed-minded attitude towards you.

Unknown

Temporary denial: This past summer I found myself in a situation where I thought that people were acting closed-minded towards me, but in reality, I don’t think they intended to be closed-minded. My job search councillor sent me to a meeting with two people who run a career-search workshop. When I got there, these people acted shocked by my life experience that was very different from theirs—they reacted negatively to the things that I haven’t done yet before they knew what I have done. Their emotions seemed to go in this order: unbelief, shock, anger, disappointment and then pity. From their tone of voice, and their impulsive jump into an emotional reaction, my first impression was that they were unopen and unwilling to understand my history, and current situation from growing up as an autistic Military brat moving every two to four years.

I wrote a narrative about my time with them from my perspective, and then e-mailed it to them with a carbon copy to my job search councillor. My job search councillor helped me to see things differently. I realize now that the way I wrote my narrative made me sound closed-minded. She helped me to understand where I might have misinterpreted them. She called the work shop people right after getting my carbon copy. She told me what they said to her—they told her that they learned a lot from what I wrote. I don’t know the background of these people, but somebody told me after this event that people who seldom move may struggle to understand a different kind of life outside of their home town. No matter what the situation, I think that not understanding me right off the bat wasn’t their fault. However, I do wish that they’d reply to my apology e-mail so that I’d know for sure that they forgave me, and that I forgave them.

Were we being narrow-minded, or just ignorant? I don’t know. This is where the barrier between the two starts to become hazy. These two people and myself seem to have fallen into this blurry in-between area. Sometimes emotions cause us to fall into a state of denial against whatever we are hearing or seeing. It’s easy to misunderstand this reaction as closed-mindedness when, in fact, denial might just be the first step in hearing information that seems shocking at first exposure.

This might also be why denial is known as the first step people go through while grieving. In good conscience, we would never say that someone who’s grieving, and experiencing denial is “closed-minded to reality”. We know that it’s nothing more than a temporary reaction to something the person had previously felt was impossible.

Conclusion

I hope that this two part blog post helped you to see ignorance in a more nuanced light. The world today makes ignorance seem so much simpler than it really is and that causes us to hurt each other – can we think differently about this?

Netivity

Christmas will be here in just a few days—Christmas is a time to remember when forgiveness came to us in the form of a newborn baby. When the baby grew up, He showed us how to let go of our narrow-mindedness so that we can see ourselves in others. Try to see yourself in Justin Trudeau—try to see yourself in Donald Trump—this will be hard if you dislike one or both of these men, but it’s worth a try.  I can now see a glimpse of myself in the workshop owners because I know that I reacted similarly towards them to how they reacted towards me.  However, this was just a glimpse.  I still forget my own faults, and then accuse others for shortcomings that I’ve also been guilty of.  The journey towards self-awareness will never end in this life; however, If we are willing to see ourselves in others, we will still be ignorant, but we will never again be narrow-minded.

Let’s bravely say what we truly feel about narrow-mindedness, and have more mercy for other people’s, and our own ignorance.  Merry Christmas!

 

 

Part 1: The Difference Between Narrow-Mindedness and Ignorance

Where do we draw the line between narrow-mindedness and ignorance? The line is very fine, so it is difficult to detect it in other people, and even in ourselves; however, it’s important that we learn how to recognize the difference between the two — terrible things can happen if we don’t. We can end up causing a lot of pain because we misunderstood someone else’s ignorance as closed-mindedness, or they misunderstood us in this same way. Knowing the difference between the two might prevent us from expecting others to pay an unrealistic price that shouldn’t have to be paid – all because they, just like us, don’t know everything about the world.

Ignorance is usually harmless, but if we deny that we are ignorant our innocence turns into narrow-mindedness. If we see ourselves as knowing everything, then naturally, we will see others as stupid, uninformed, and maybe even evil.

I decided to split this blog post into two parts.  Today I will list three traits of narrow-minded people.  Tomorrow I will post about one trait of ignorance, and then I’m going to talk about a time this year when I couldn’t recognize the difference between the two in myself and others—I’m going to tell you the story that inspired me to write this blog post in the first place.  Stay tuned tomorrow for the second part about ignorance, and to read my story.  In the meantime prepare for yourself a steaming hot cup of cocoa (a couple gingerbread and shortbread cookies can’t hurt either) , get comfortable, and join me as we contemplate on three traits of narrow-mindedness that we should look out for in ourselves and others.

Hot Cocoa

Narrow-Mindedness

Calls other people “ignorant”: Whenever I look at media today, the news, internet, etc., I notice a strange trend. The characters on our electronic screens point their fingers at others and call them “ignorant” as if not knowing things makes them evil.  You don’t know anything about Indigenous culture?! “If you are not Indigenous yourself, don’t appropriate that culture and risk misrepresenting it”, or you might learn from your human tendency to be curious about what you are ignorant about. (Gasp! How awful would learning from our ignorance be?)

There is nothing wrong with being ignorant – absolutely nothing.  This word is being overused in a negative way by people who want it to have a strictly negative meaning. We are all ignorant, so if we call others “ignorant” out of pride or spite we risk acting like closed-minded hypocrites.  Whenever we are learning something new we need to start somewhere–we have to start off as being ignorant before we can become informed.  Where else can we start?

They do whatever it takes to avoid understanding you: Some children cover their ears to avoid listening to others; once people grow up, however, this behaviour becomes socially unacceptable. Because of this, adults might resort to other means. These means can include beginning a conversation with someone else while you are trying to talk to them, giving you a dirty look while you are trying to express yourself, changing the subject, or simply walking away to do something else.

Sometimes they will also use noise to block out information that others are trying to give to them. If there have been people in your life who tend to do this, you know that you feel trapped in their presence. If you try to sincerely express your own feelings to them, you can’t get a word in edgewise before they begin to shout at you angrily, roar with laughter, or burst into tears. They sabotage your freedom for the sake of their own.

If these things only last a short while, and later this person shows some willingness to communicate with you to find the truth, this may have not been closed-mindedness in the first place. Maybe this person was just confused or scared. Maybe he or she is now seeking forgiveness and trying to help you to understand what you did that upset them so that you know what you need to be forgiven for. However, if this person never shows any intention to understand you, or helping you to understand them, then this person is choosing to remain closed-minded.

They don’t believe in potential, and the need to change: How often have you heard people say, “You/I don’t need to change anything about your/myself”, “I am perfect just the way I am”, or “you are perfect just the way you are” as if these are complements? This philosophy is rooted in subjectivism, also known as relativism. I spoke about relativism in a blog post called “Smallfoot – Objectivism vs. Subjectivism”. Whenever people say these things, I believe that they want to hold onto their own opinions about you, and themselves whether these opinions are good, bad, true, or false. I know for a fact that I need to change – I need to get better at seeing the good in other people, and to develop my own potential to see other’s potentials. I would hope that others would want to see potential in me to become a better person than I am now — I am not “perfect just the way I am”. If they don’t believe in the need to change their own false perceptions of me, or my own false presuppositions of them, then they are acting like closed-minded relativists. I want to see potential in people who don’t believe in potential. Is that a bad thing?

(Part 2)

The Difference between Autistic Pride, and Autism Acceptance

baby children cute dress In a 2013 interview on YouTube, Temple Grandin said “Autism is an important part of who I am, and I like my logical thinking, but I consider myself a college professor first—my career comes first. I’m getting worried about too many kids getting hung up on their autism. I’d rather get them hung up on computer science or being a journalist—something that they can make a career out of.” (The Economist)

This quote has remained in the back of my mind for a long time, and just recently it has resurfaced. I realize that I now share Temple Grandin’s concerns more than ever before. We live in a world that advocates not only for autism acceptance, but also for autistic pride. I believe that pride and acceptance are two completely different things. While I am afraid that autistic pride can block potential, I also believe that autism acceptance is needed for autistic people like myself to reach our full potential. Through this blog post I will share my current opinions about the differences between pride and acceptance. I also want to address the shortcomings that I see with autistic pride, and the good that I see in autism acceptance.

What are the differences?

Autistic Pride:  Not a lot of people know about autistic pride, but it does exist, and it’s very real. I have struggled with this form of pride in my own life. Fighting against this sense of pride within myself has completely transformed my worldview.  I have grown to become very sensitive to this feeling that seems to linger behind many more labels besides the label ‘autism’.Rainbow Infinity SymbolThere is even a day devoted to this phenomenon. June 18th is known as Autistic Pride Day.  This day is represented by a rainbow infinity symbol (shown above). The website Awarenessdays.com says that “this annual event was first celebrated by Aspies for Freedom in 2005 and they modelled Autistic Pride Day on the gay pride movement.”

I’m concerned about today’s general emphasis on pride in the labels that society assigns to us, and that we assign to ourselves.  My concern is that this form of pride might keep us stuck with our own opinions, and prevent us from being open-minded.

“Autism” is nothing more than a word that’s being used as an attempt to encapsulate unknowns about human complexity — it’s useful, but it’s not perfect. If we tie ourselves to this word as if it’s a badge of honour I’m deeply concerned that we won’t explore our potentials beyond the ‘autism’ categorization. We have created a community revolving around this word that we call the ‘autism community’.  To a certain extent that’s fine, but I believe that just like anyone else we are meant to branch out as individuals seeking gifts, and truth that is bigger than ourselves.

This is what I believe that we need to do—we need to branch out, but can we do this alone? This is where autism acceptance comes into play.

Autism Acceptance:  Acceptance seems to work as a two-way street. If we open our minds up to others, they might open their minds to us, and vice versa — as a result we can help them to help us incorporate ourselves into the world. If we are struggling to communicate, how can we open our minds to others? I believe that we can do this through our gifts. It’s easy to assume that presenting our gifts or talents to the world is an arrogant thing to do.  We might think that we are showing off; however, I believe that revealing our gifts does the exact opposite of that — gifts are shared with other people. They help others to empathize with us, and us to empathize with them. We are supposed to share our gifts.  We shouldn’t hog them all to ourselves.

April 2nd shares two different names: Autism Awareness Day, and Autism Acceptance Day. Several years ago I was given the opportunity to sing at an Autism Awareness Day event, and my friend presented his gorgeous, heart-felt sketches of elephants along with other wild animals, and colourful paintings of fruits and flowers.  His artwork was presented in a slide show along with the song “How Great Is Our God”.  This song was glorifying someone much greater than a worldly label–it was glorifying the God who gives each and every one of us gifts.

As we were revealing our talents that we have been developing and refining through a never-ending process of transformation and improvement, the label ‘autism’ could have easily been pushed to the side.  People find unity in witnessing and sharing in other people’s gifts because they represent the fact that no matter what, we are all transforming and improving, and we all have stories to tell even if we don’t have the words.

No matter what you call April 2nd, that day can be very flexible, while Autistic Pride Day seems to be rigidly fixed into the notion that we exist, and that we should be proud to be autistic. The impact of April 2nd events all depends on the people who are moving the organized autism-centered events forward. It can be a day of open-minded discussions about autism, but it can also remain closed-off to discussions. Some events might treat autism like a deadly disease (hopefully not too many), while others might treat it as a unique part of humanity, but from there fall into the limiting “be proud to be autistic” mindset.  An April 2nd autism-centered event can also involve many different people who hold different views about autism, and hopefully this would open up opportunities for constructive debates. In my opinion, this is the best set-up; this would create a safe environment for debate and allow for diverse views on the subject to be represented. Not only do I want to see if I can make strong arguments against someone else’s views, but I also want to see if others can make good arguments against my own views.

Even now, you may have great arguments against the position that I have taken here. If so, I want to know what you have to say so that I can continue my never-ending process of transformation and improvement.  I encourage you to share your views in the comment section.

Conclusion

To other autistics out there, I have a few questions — can we seek acceptance from others if we are preoccupied with the autism community as being the center of our identity? How can we seek acceptance from others if we close ourselves off within the autism community while complaining about how the outsiders don’t understand us? Why not help them to understand us? This is what autistic pride can do to us — it can make us love ourselves, but it can also turn us into a tribe against the world who talks about acceptance, but deep down wants to remain segregated from the world. We exercise a twisted form of tyranny if we deliberately prevent others from connecting with us just because we want to remain proud, separate, and unique. We should be open and curious about other people’s ideas, and I hope that others will be open and curious about our ideas. Social skills, and morality are not the same things. Even though socialization is hard for us our conscience can help us to discern if we are treating others with love, and if others are treating us with patience and love.

April is just a few days away now. You don’t have to agree with what I have said, but as the next three months roll by, I encourage anyone who is reading this to be vigilant. If you see something — anything — a video, a poster, or anything else that revolves around the word ‘autism’, I want you to ask yourself this question: “Does this possess the spirit of pride, or the spirit of acceptance and unity?”

Thinking Out Loud: Musicals, and The Importance of a Good Story–Part 4

When Musicals have Good Stories

autumn autumn colours autumn leaves beautiful
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 Wicked

   One musical that has resonated with me for many years is Wicked. Within recent years I have formed my motto ‘intentions matter more than words’, and even to this day the story of this musical stands up to this belief. I was just listening to the song ‘No Good Deed’. In this song Elphaba is trying to use her words to make things better—her words have a physical impact because she is summoning a spell, and that makes things especially dangerous. She starts off by lamenting about how her good intentions don’t lead to good results, and then it gets into deeper levels of philosophy as she begins to wonder if her intentions were ever truly good. Whenever this question is used right, it can help us to adjust our own intentions towards others. But in this song, she gives up. She probably gave up on herself because everyone else gave up on her without questioning their intentions towards her.

   The story, and the lyrics in the music of Wicked come together to tell us the story. Through this song we are challenged to think about how the cycle of judgement works. This whole musical also shows us why, as humans, we were never meant to be too powerful because we don’t always know what is good—things will always go wrong if we had the power to control everything around us.  It also teaches us not to take other people’s words or actions too seriously or personally because that’s what moves the cycle of judgement, and fosters the delusion of self-righteousness. Did the writers know that they were spreading these messages? I don’t know. Just like how Elphaba was questioning her own intentions, the writers probably didn’t know about some of the true messages they were spreading.

Frozen

I might as well mention the other musical that stars Idina Menzel: Frozen. This musical movie seems to take a lot of inspiration from Wicked. People, and maybe even the writers for this movie branded it as ‘feminist’, and people use this label to either love it, or hate it. Although Jordan Peterson (my favourite thinker of our time) probably wouldn’t like what I’m about to say, I do not regard this movie as a feminist one. In fact, when I first saw this movie I was not fully aware of this kind of agenda. It surprised me to hear people brand a movie with a label that had the three letters ‘ism’ at the end of it as if it was no big deal, but that doesn’t surprise me anymore–It just creeps me out a little. I don’t want art to be marked with an ism. Isms limit the way we look at things.

This is what I took away from Frozen the first time I saw it: Just like everyone else in the theater, I was captivated by the song ‘Let It Go’. Although this song is good, it does have statements about freedom from rules. I’m not going to deny that this is a dangerous message, but ‘Let It Go’ plays in the middle of the show. That message is discredited by the end when Elsa learns that expressing herself to that extent has been hurting the city with an eternal winter. The message of the story itself overpowers the lyrics in the song.

By the end of the movie, the message about freedom from rules turns into a message of familial love. This was valuable to me at the time I first saw this in my early twenties. Around this time, I clung to my family a lot because I couldn’t understand the outside world. I used to believe that I was uncapable of loving others outside of my own family because of my challenges, and I was only capable of liking other people.  Although this belief has been fading away as of recently, I believe that this stemmed from recognizing the limits of my own maturity in an unconscious way. Frozen seemed to be about the journey towards agape love (sacrificial love) that needs to happen before you can genuinely love people from outside or yourself, and outside of your own circle.

I could write about many more musicals such as The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, or My Fair Lady, but I have already written too much.

In Conclusion

   Stories deserve just as much care as music, and music deserves just as much care as stories. If you take away the goodness of a story, you are left without a foundation. If you take away the goodness of music, you discredit the heart of a story weather it’s man-made, or your own story.

This is the end of the series ‘Musicals, and The Importance of a Good Story’. I hope that you enjoyed it!

Thinking Out Loud: Musicals, and The Importance of a Good Story–Part 3

Allowing the High School Cliché to Flourish

Poodle Skirt

How often have you seen musicals, or the idea of musical theater being portrayed in a high school setting?

Let’s see… there’s High School Musical, Glee, the two musicals that are named after hair products, Fame, can you think of any more?

This would be okay if we weren’t already steeped with the romanticisation of high school from the time we were little kids. I don’t know why that’s been happening because high school never necessarily seemed like an adventurous time. During this time, the grand bulk of our waking life consisted of trying to keep up with school work, didn’t it? I never really liked this trope from the time I was a little kid passively watching the Olsen twins because my sister and friends liked them (I enjoyed them for a little while, but that enjoyment faded quickly).

Whenever I’ve witnessed this trope, something often felt empty about it, but I was never exactly sure what it was. Maybe it’s because the ages of these characters, and the setting makes for simple stories—the writers must think that simple young minds, plus a simple setting, equals a simple solution to a problem.  Did the writers trust children and teens to negotiate between right and wrong in a heartfelt way so that they could gain real respect from themselves and others, and real character?  I’m not going to assume that they didn’t.  However, often the issues presented in these stories seem to be too extreme or shallow to be dealt with in the simple, non-philosophical ways that they are handled. While some people are scared of philosophy in a story, I’m scared of the lack of it as characters move through life faster than their maturity has taken them so far.  I can’t make sense of this no matter how I look at it.

Let’s get back on track. If the musicals (and television show) listed above were made without being musicals (meaning that the only time characters were singing was when they were performing), what would they be like? Glee would probably look like the typical high school sitcom for older teens, High School Musical would probably look like one of Disney’s live action television shows about dating, and Maybe Hair Spray would be okay, but Grease and Fame would seem a little tired. Is that just me? Why stick to this trope if it’s just a simple platform to paste music onto?

Tomorrow, I’m going to talk about some musicals that I believe have good stories.  It will be the very last post in this series.

Thinking Out Loud: Musicals, and The Importance of a Good Story–Part 2

Excessive Comedy

Comedy and Tragedy

I understand that my previous statements are related to opinions about a musical that I have never seen, so excessive tragedy might not even be as big of an issue as I thought it was. However, I have a hunch that excessive comedy may, in fact, be truly serious.

Are you familiar with the musical Mama Mia? If you have seen it, you probably either love it, or you’re thinking… meh, the music’s good.

I’ve recently seen the sequel. While it is a little less risque than the previous movie, whenever the story jumped to the past, I never knew what was happening because the daughter and mother at the same age looked the same. The mother died, but I never knew why, or how. We, the audience, were looking back in time to the mother’s carefree dating life where she was making bad decisions. But this wasn’t what we were supposed to think about, because the characters were singing and dancing to Abba music. Abba music is good, but would the music have held up better with… a different story, or maybe no story at all? Because it sure seemed like the music was telling us how to feel about unknowns–just dance them away as if they don’t matter.

The first movie was worse at doing that. Do you remember what happened after the mother met the three plausible fathers of her daughter? Her friends told her through song that she was “The Dancing Queen!”

Something that many people, including myself, have been wondering about is the possibility that laugh tracks can be used to tell us what to find funny or light-hearted. If laugh tracks can tell us how to feel, can music do the same thing? Music provides many more emotions than the sound of laughter. Maybe it can tell us what’s cute and light-hearted, what’s comforting, or what is any of these happy feelings before our gut instincts have a chance to kick in.

Tomorrow I’m going to be discussing the use of the high school trope for musicals, and why I believe that it’s used too often.