Hard Times

When I was young I greatly admired the monomania of a person who understood that their calling was automotive repair. But this was before I knew an automative repair genius whose other passion was carving. And before, I met a skilled anesthesiologist whose watercolors adorn museums. I didn’t understand complexity, and wanted things simple. so I saw things in one dimension.

It took time to learn that it doesn’t matter if you are a certified professional, skilled worker, or laborer. You are probably more complex than one defining characteristic.

Years ago, I was down on my luck and worked for a large shipping company as a laborer. Some met me who thought it interesting that a laborer should also be a skilled carver. In me, the post-graduate anthropologist quietly evaluated the speaker’s prejudice, classism, and ignorance. They were weighed, measured, and found wanting.

Unfortunately, we tend to reduce people to monotonous monochromes because we characterize narrowly. As a result, we fall into an easy prejudice – measuring a person by one characteristic – race, ethnicity, occupation, political leanings or perceived class.

The old truism goes that first impressions are lasting. However, I’d like to point out that they are also deceptively vague and incorrect. Just because your primary love in life is the flute does not mean that you lack interests in carpentry, sailing, or even wrestling. To be certified in on area of life is a lousy measure for how a life is spent.

We live in the toughest of circumstances these days. Political, religious, and social litmus tests abound. It’s a tough time to remember that we shouldn’t judge based on one characteristic. No matter how prominent it seems.

I grind my teeth on this sometimes as I find myself at a crossroads and sometimes violating my own beliefs. I know from experience that under the right circumstances I’d find that the people I currently most disagree with, are also possibly those I’d share mutual interests with.

Times are hard. And finding common ground challenging. Even worse quieting rage seems to be the largest of challenges.

2 Replies to “Hard Times”

  1. great post – we are all guilty. Having served both in the military as a naval officer and at a large university as a staff member there is a nearly automatic tendency to look at the initials before or after someone’s name (CPL, CDR, MBA, PhD etc…) or their job description (machinists mate, flight surgeon, navigator, mason, chemist assistant, tenured faculty etc…) and form all sorts of assumptions about what they are capable of or how seriously you should take their opinion. One thing I’ve love about my lifelong interest in woodworking is getting to work shoulder to shoulder with folks of all backgrounds on a different shared interest. I’ve received valuable design and joinery advise from weekend woodworkers regardless of if they were retired orthopedic surgeons or HVAC mechanics. One woodworking class instructor for grown adults that I quite enjoy likes to say “it’s all problem solving” and then you get to watch a bunch of other grown ups struggle over the same task taking turns to help each other out once you master that skill.

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