May 21, 2003

Of rants and reasoning …

Yesterdays non-rant about people saying something and doing something else seems to have touched a few nerves since I received several responses to that in one form or another :p But it actually was that – a non-rant. I wasn’t going to let other people’s actions upset my equilibrium and I was simply stating something that was going through my mind at that particular time – so no reason for anybody to be alarmed, offended, irritated etc :p

However, reading Gordon R. Dickson’s "Way of the Pilgrim" later on during the evening, a paragraph from the book struck me as being relevant to this particular situation. In this particular situation, the earth has been conquered by aliens and the protagonist is trying to understand the alien mindset. In the process, he says that aliens and humans see each other as distorted reflections of themselves in a mirror. He goes on to explain that what he meant was that the aliens and humans can’t really understand each other since they think in totally different ways and yet, they can’t help trying to equate the other’s actions with the way they’d do something and so come up with a distorted picture of themselves to explain the actions of the other. I’m not sure that I explained that properly here but anyway, it made sense to me and what is more, I realized that this holds true even in human-human interactions.

We don’t really understand what drives other people and so we attribute certain things to them in order to understand their actions – only thing is, that is probably a distorted picture of that person since we can never be certain of correctly identifying what drives the other person. For example, there is the case of something that happened at my grandfather’s funeral – this incidentally, is one of the reasons I hate going for any family gathering :p I had bought a new cellular phone recently and by Sri Lankan standards it’s pretty expensive since it’s a Sony Ericsson P800 and it’s one of the latest in the market. My Dad had commented on this to one of my uncles and while my parents berated me for spending so much on the phone, I wouldn’t be surprised that when they spoke to my uncle about it if they hadn’t said it with a touch of pride – hinting that I could *afford* to spend so much money on a new phone … and of course, they would have mentioned the price of the phone.

Anyway, my uncle comes up to me later and asks me if I had my phone with me and I thought that he simply wanted to take a call and told him that I was out of range since I was. He says never mind and takes me over to his son-in-law and a few others and introduces me to them. Then he casually says that my father had told him that I bought a new phone and asks me if he can see it and then says that he doesn’t know much about this stuff and passes the phone on to his son-in-law. Naturally, the price of the phone gets discussed at this point too. I thought at that point that my uncle was simply trying to impress his son-in-law and his relatives with the fact that his nephew had such a good phone (or could afford one) – they do that kind of thing here in Sri Lanka :p But when I told my parents about the incident later, they said that it wasn’t so at all – that my uncle had simply doubted the price that my Dad had quoted (which was the price that I actually paid) and wanted to make sure that my Dad wasn’t lying by getting his son-in-law and the others to verify the price because my uncle trusted his son-in-law more than anybody else (my parents’ opinion, not mine).

My point here is that I thought of my uncle’s actions in one way and my parents looked at it a different way – each one of us basing our opinion of a person (my uncle in this instance) on how we’d interacted with him, how we thought of him and our own ways of looking at things. I really have no idea who is right about the real motives of my uncle – maybe none of us are. But I’d still prefer to think of my uncle the way I’d thought of him since to me that’s a less negative picture – there is this Disney TV movie which I forget where the central character says something along the lines of "if you look for the good in people you will find it" and I’d like to believe that. Maybe I wear rose-tinted glasses but heck, it’s better than looking at everybody and wondering what they might do to you … though sometimes it’s hard not to do that too :p

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