“The subtle art of ignoring others” and why no one should learn it.
There is this feeling that I have had over and over and over…into a bazillion times. Many a times, when I go to a party or meet a bunch of people, they hug me, say a hello and then as soon as I am about to answer, ‘I am fiiiiin….” they are already gone.
There is a subtle sense of being ignored by the other people. It is not easy to articulate but most definitely is present. I have felt this sense of isolation for decades and in all kind of parties, communities, across class and gender boundaries.
If you look closely at all the teen movies where the sexy looking girls are bullying the other not-so-conventionally deemed beautiful girls, and then look back at life, you will have to say, “that’s bloody truthful!” Sadly, in real life, there is no clear distinction between people taking up those characters. It is all muddled.
I remember, when I was about 10ish, five girls (including me were talking). They were all of Muslim faith and were discussing Ramzan. One of them said that she was not going to keep the fasts and suddenly the other three isolated her (physically and emotionally) to let her know that they disapproved of her behavior. Thankfully these girls were young and did have a good sense to patch up in less than five minutes. As grownups we fail to do so all the time.
Mockery, sarcasm, labeling, isolating and ignoring are the tools that humans have used over the years to create a comfortable space where the known and familiar is IN and unknown and unfamiliar is kept OUT. That is why misfits have such a hard time being themselves, because society doesn’t approve of them (us?)
This practice is so deep rooted and woven into our behavior, that no matter where we are, what we do, who we become we still sub-consciously practice it. In homes, communities, schools, offices including the most equal and equitable places, there are people who are constantly using power of money, gender, age, authority or a collective to make someone feel a cast out and therefore lonely.
What is the social harm of this behavior I ask? The answers I get (from my own understanding and experiences) are:
· Everyone is given Sisyphus’s task to please the other by being like the other.
· Uniqueness is not appreciated.
· It creates a lot of social frustration therefore leading somewhat to personal frustration.
· We as humans will be repeating a pattern of ignoring and bullying innovative and great thinkers and doers of our times. Pity that the road to success will always have to be paved through tears, feeling of being misunderstood, pain, misery and finally (if one gets to that) triumph!
· Depression and anxiety has become rampant. It will only worsen.
Having differences versus being indifferent.
Having differences with someone’s behavior/opinion and telling them that one does, shows that one cares. It helps both the parties create a channel of communication, opinions can be exchanged and reason can be reached. Even if, one stands exactly where one was, before the conversation, atleast an attempt is made to understand why the other does what his/she does.
Indifference doesn’t give any one a chance to do that. There is no space for dialogue, for exchange of ideas, for fights, quarrels, resentments or even love and empathy to blossom, because one CHOSE not to give the other a space to be heard. Indifference is an epidemic that we have had for years, which gnawing at the very core of the human heart.
Can we do something?
It is very difficult task. Because our biases, egos and the fear of becoming an outcast does not always let us do that.
Task1: The next time there is a meeting, a community party, a collective of people, try and meet everyone atleast once. Talk to each one of them.
Task2: Someone acts, very erratically and it is difficult for you to digest the act. Take a few deep breaths, calm down, the reach out to the person and ask, “I cannot understand why you did what you did, would be kind enough to explain it to me.”
Talking to people about the things is much better than talking about people to others. It helps no one.
The world is and always will be complicated; we could try to ease our lives by being a bit real.