There is nothing worse than being judged on your merits by someone who isn’t remotely interested in what it is you do.
I used to think this particular kind of sensitivity was limited to writers and other creative beings, since we tend to dig deep to find our truths—but apparently the feeling is quite universal. And it seems to be ticking a lot of us off.
I once wrote a book on a matter I am pretty comfortable with, only to find the first draft brutally ravished by a self-proclaimed publisher who thought my ideas could do with some ramping up. He defended his actions by claiming his “experience” surpassed my status as a newcomer, and my enthusiasm therefore needed to be thwarted. It goes without saying that I went on to find another publisher, who kindly helped me salvage my sentences from the hot mess they had been thrown into. He even offered me a contract, which reinstated my faith in keepers of their word—so I could chalk the whole chapter down to experience. Just another bump in my professional road.
It wasn’t until recently that I was reminded of the whole episode, as a new encounter that had all the potential of developing into a beautiful friendship eventually turned into a bit of a nightmare. A healthy degree of conflict is perhaps to be expected from followers of different religions, but surely at some point we should also be able to close ranks, build bridges, and bury the hatchet? Turns out that I have no idea how to react to someone expecting me to behave according to a set of stringent rules I have no desire to adhere to, without turning into an extremist myself.
Finding the most effective and respectful way to voice our beliefs is hard work. It involves examining what remains after all cultural imprints have been held against the light and filtering out all the voices clamoring for our attention. Whatever is left after ridding ourselves of all the drivel that keeps us from being “authentic” can then safely be presented as a proper opinion—without the need to put our egos on endless replay to make sure we are being adequately “heard.”
The fruit of this creative labor takes time to fully ripen, but the urge to start flinging around a half-baked theory can be pretty hard to resist. It’s similar to a toddler’s primal reaction to the contents of a cookie jar. Ravaging a moment’s potential before it’s actually ready to be consumed could spoil more than the appetite of a grabby little kid. There is a perfect timing for everything. What applies to cookies is similar to what happens when we go around making big statements before properly thinking things through. There is something about helping ourselves to what’s not quite ours yet that will come back to bite us.
My aforementioned friend is perfectly entitled to see the world through the eyes of their God. Anyone is. In fact, I love how we are all somehow looking for the divine and discovering it in different places. But when we find ourselves engulfed in a logic that makes it hard for us to breathe, consider politely distancing from the surge of hot air. Because things get ugly when fire eats fire. It becomes a roaring beast munching away at its own tail. But fire doesn’t just happen; it is intentionally lit, and once those flames really start blazing, everything is blown out of all proportion and it’s hard to prevent remnants of value from going up in smoke.
Judging a person by the standards we hold ourselves up to doesn’t make anyone “better.” It’s arrogance disguised as advice. Protecting the magic we draw our strength or even identity from is nobody’s business but our own. It’s what we owe our beliefs to, our value system, and possibly even our pathway to God. It’s our personal baseline.
Throwing around opinions like cheap confetti and passing it off as an act of selfless kindness is as beneficial to humanity as casually chucking a match into a pile of hay. And yet a lot of us seem to have an unlimited stash of matches and opinions these days. Not to mention the amount of gaslighting that is going on—on every level. And to make sure we keep the bonfire going, we throw on more logs—and politics and flames.
I’m so tired of it. Aren’t you?
There is a fine line between making a big deal out of something and dealing with something big.
Personally, I need for it to be quiet to figure out my way through the flaming chaos we find ourselves in. I don’t feel the need to point fingers or to participate in lengthy debates about the provenance of bugs and vaccines. I understand that deep down inside we all need to feel safe. I’m certainly no exception. We’re all doing our best to keep our families safe and our cookie jars full.
Virologists, epidemiologists, journalists, bus drivers, lawyers, dentists, and writers: we all own a piece of the puzzle. For the world to not start looking like the editorial “improvement” of my first book, we need to start pulling together. A bunch of words floating around in a pot does not give them any real meaning.
With all due respect for all the arguments out there, can we please stop clamoring for each other’s attention and start focusing on the actual plot? We’re dealing with a pandemic. Trust me, I know. It’s the bickering I can do without. Let’s find some common ground. I don’t need to fully agree with someone to stand by their side. Some things are simply bigger than the need to be right. I’m sure God (he/she/it) just wants us to find reverence for the silence we truly deserve—and take it from there.
I used to think the worst thing that could happen to a writer was for someone to mess with their words. I was wrong: it’s the worst thing we can do to each other.