I’ve noticed lately that there are a lot of folks who seem to believe that if you don’t agree with them about everything, then you are “the enemy” – even if you were best buds last week. My daughter pointed out something that should be obvious, recently, when I made it clear how much I hate Pink’s new song “True Love”: “It doesn’t matter if someone disagrees with you. Nobody agrees with all of your opinions on everything.”
Indeed. And that is exactly as it should be. If someone – anyone – agrees with you about everything, you can bet that at least one of you isn’t thinking for yourself.
One of the beautiful things about humanity is that each individual little spark of the divine that is walking around in a “person suit” has a unique set of experiences and, therefore, a unique perspective. Another beautiful thing about being human is that it is possible to transcend the differences in experience by remembering that at the core we are all one – part of the same loving, creative energy of the Universe. When we do that, we do our best to understand another’s perspective. It doesn’t mean we agree, but it does mean that we recognize that differences in perspective do not automatically mean that we are in opposition.
On my Facebook page, I’m pretty outspoken about gun violence and gun control. That’s partly because I live in a city where most of the guns that are used are used on other people. And, frequently, they are used by people who obtained the guns legally. I expect to have a different opinion from a hunter who lives in a remote rural region, close to the Canadian border, where an encounter with a bear is always a possibility. That doesn’t mean that the hunter and I cannot find a lot of common ground when we discuss the topic, but, in order to do so, we have to acknowledge each other’s perspectives. I need to acknowledge that the hunter is not wrong to want a gun in an encounter with a bear, and the hunter needs to acknowledge that it is far too easy for an adolescent on psych meds to gain access to legally obtained guns and blow away my daughter and 10 of her friends if she has the audacity to say, “No thanks” when he asks her out. I have actually found a lot of common ground with owners of guns. Unfortunately, I have also encountered a lot of people who think I’m silly, deluded, misguided, and evil – for even bringing up the topic. Wow.
To be a part of the autism community is to have your heart broken over and over again for many different reasons, but the saddest one may be the one that’s completely unnecessary – the one that comes from other people in the autism community. You can’t be around people with autism for long without noting that there is a lot of disagreement among the various members and/or groups in the community. If you listen to the nastiness you get the idea that this is how the world looks:
Black and white. Good and bad with no intersection whatsoever. That’s how a lot of people see the world: “I am on the side of good (or God), and, unless you see things exactly as I do, you are on the side of bad (or Satan).”
But is this an accurate picture of the world? Or, more to the point perhaps, is it an accurate picture of the autism community? Personally speaking? I say, “Not even close.” I know people on both sides of virtually every issue in the autism community – and most issues in the world at large for that matter – and I can say one thing is nearly always true: People have far more in common than they have in differences. All people want to live healthy, happy lives. Where we differ is in how we think that can or will be accomplished, and those differences come about because of our different experiences and our different ways of making judgments.
Most of you have probably heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, based on the sixteen different personality types described by C. G. Jung. I usually test as an INTJ, an introvert who uses intuition and thinking to reach judgment. I can have a great deal of difficulty conversing with an ESFP, an extrovert who relies on the senses and feelings to arrive at a perception. Does that make me right and that person wrong, or vice versa? No, it just makes it harder for us to see the commonality that surely exists between us. But the commonality is there, whether or not one or both of us can see it.
This is how we see the world if we can actually see that commonality:
Black, white and a whole lot of shades of grey. Setting aside any discussion of what is the “true” representation of the world for the time being, which viewpoint is the most practical for getting something done? If the world is divided up into “good” and “bad,” as in the first diagram, and you find yourself frequently finding out that someone doesn’t measure up to your definition of “good,” the number of “goods” gets increasingly smaller, while the number of “bads” gets increasingly larger. Pretty soon, it’s “you and me against the world.” Let me tell you something: In that scenario, the world wins.
In the second scenario, you have plenty of possible allies in your quest to get something done. Many of them may not see things exactly the way you do, but there are any number of commonalities between you that you can appeal to when enlisting help for what you want to achieve.
We here at the Thinking Moms’ Revolution have a huge agenda: Not only do we want to improve the lives of people with autism (and other neurological disabilities) and their families (and, yes, we do consider the families important. Whether someone likes it or not, autism does not affect only the person with autism; it also affects every member of that person’s family, the schools he or she attends, and the communities in which he or she lives), we also seek to drastically reduce the overall level of chronic illness in current and future generations.
Some people in the autism community share only one of those goals: improving the lives of people with autism, for instance. Quite a few people with that as their primary goal have decided that we – TMR – are “the enemy” because that is not our only goal. To that I say, “Hogwash!” Just because I may not agree in all respects on the primacy of a particular goal or on how to achieve that goal, that doesn’t mean that I am not one of your best resources in accomplishing that goal. I do have a broader view, though, that I am never going to apologize for. Yes, your life is important to me, but it isn’t the only one that is; so are the lives of every other person on this planet, those with asthma, allergies, ADHD, diabetes, etc., and those who are lucky enough to be truly healthy. The fact is that you cannot cater to one group without affecting the world as a whole. As Thomas Merton said, “No man is an island.” Quantum mechanics has proven that we are all part of a vast field of energy, and one cannot take an action that does not have an effect on the whole field. When we seek change, we’d better make sure that the change we wish to make is a beneficial one.
When it comes down to it, in order to effect positive change, we must acknowledge the humanity of all those other circles. We must see – and exploit – the beauty of the many shades of grey that exist, surrounding us all the time. I have a sneaking suspicion that, when we really achieve that, we’ll start to see the world more like this:
Perhaps after all this is a more accurate picture of how the world really is.
This holiday season I want to offer up a challenge: In the coming weeks do your best to see all 50 shades of grey – the whole spectrum! (Let’s start small. I won’t ask for rainbow-colored glasses.) Look for allies among the grey. You might be surprised where you find them. Then come back and tell us how it went. Offer any suggestions that helped you to see the grey. I personally guarantee that any changes you make in this direction will be beneficial for all concerned – in other words, for the whole planet.
Here’s hoping you have a very grey holiday season!
~ Professor (Grey)
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