What is the world according to ME?
July the Fourth evokes some sad feelings in me because of something that happened to someone I never knew several years ago.
The Independence Day parade was over for this seven-year-old boy. He rode the parade route on the back of a flat-bed truck with other members of his Taekwondo academy, sitting on the edge of the bed with his feet dangling over the side. As they reached the parade disassembly area, the truck hit a pothole, jolting him off the truck and under its rear wheel, killing him. His father was driving the truck.
Why does that tragedy affect me so strongly? I don’t know either the boy or his father. Tragedies happen daily. But, it so happens, my six-year-old grandson also was riding on the truck when the accident happened. I am a father and a grandfather. I know how dear my children and grandchildren are to me. Although I have not suffered such a tragedy personally, I can imagine what it might feel like to tragically lose one of my darling grandchildren.
Have you ever tried imagining what it would be like to be someone else? I mean to actually be them the same way you are you right now reading this article. I have, but I wasn’t good at it. All I could think about was myself. I have no way of actually being another person.
No matter how diligently we try, we can’t be someone else. We can only be ourselves. I can only be ME. Therefore, everything that happens in the only world I personally know, happens from my point of view. My perception is my reality. Every moment of every day I experience the world according to ME.
And so it is with us all. Each of us only knows the world from his or her empirical reality–what we can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. Every other understanding is imagined. But imagination counts for something.
Example: I don’t have to actually put my hand on a hot stove to believe that it would harm me. I can see what extreme heat and fire does to other objects. From that I can imagine what would happen to my hand and how much pain I could suffer and conclude that I should not put my hand on a hot stove.
What about empathy?
Empathy is my ability to feel other’s physical and emotional pain, or joy, because I have personally experienced something similar. I’m imagining. Perhaps you could empathize with those I described in the opening paragraphs. The closer your actual experience, the more you can feel with others experiencing similar life situations.
Shared experiences and causes
When the world according to ME is affected, it gets personal. It’s common for people who have similar experiences, especially tragedies or devastating illnesses or injuries, to team up in common causes. Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is one of the early ones that comes to my mind. Cancer survivors, military veterans, families with autistic children, those who have suffered discrimination for some reason, and many others speak to this trend. We are more likely to get involved with a cause when we have a shared experience related to that cause.
My point in all this
To really connect with the larger world around me, I have to venture out of my own protected bubble and experience the reality that is the world in which others live. If I keep to myself, or only surround myself with others as much like me as possible, I cannot comprehend the world according to anyone else. This sheltered world according to ME creates a distorted view of the world out there. The consequences to me include prejudice, stereotyping (profiling), blind spots about my own attitudes and understandings, and making important decisions based on faulty information and assumptions.
The world according to ME must be a world of inclusion, rather than one of seclusion, if I am to Live INPowered.