I have learned so much from other people over the years. Yes, I’ve learned from what I’ve personally gone through of course — but I’ve learned just as much, arguably more, from the people around me. From watching what happens to them and how they react.
Not with a closed, skeptical mind that already thinks I know what is going on, better than they do. But with an open, curious one.
My friends’ experiences have changed my mind. Heck, my enemies’ experiences have (not that I really have enemies, but you know what I mean).
And what a fortunate phenomenon. Being able to learn vicariously has saved me a lot of heartache. Not all of it, of course (a life with no heartache is not a reasonable ask of the universe, sorry to say). But quite a lot has been avoided by watching other people and learning. Not telling myself reassuring stories about how it would be different if it happened to me — that I’d somehow mysteriously avert crisis by performing adeptly.
No. It’s comforting to believe such a thing, but it’s not strictly true. Not always. And not as much as our fear wants it to be.
I’ve Learned A Lot From Watching People Who Dismiss Experiences Unless THEY Have Them
Somewhat fittingly, I’ve learned an awful lot from watching people who dismiss experiences unless they’re the one having them. If you keep your eyes open, you’ll see it eventually — people who talk bitterly about one side of an issue, putting others down who feel differently, until life comes and smacks them off their high horse. And they find themselves on the other side, the one that they had always dismissed.
These turnarounds can be breathtaking to witness. Someone suddenly becomes an advocate for something they previously mocked or said didn’t exist or wasn’t an actual issue. It’s encouraging — through a certain lens…. except, I’ll often find these same individuals unaware that they changed their mind.
“Oh, I’ve always felt deeply about this issue,” some will claim. When anyone with the memory that spans longer than a household mosquito’s will know that this simply isn’t true.
Better late than never though, right? I suppose that’s true.
But on the other hand, I’m discouraged by people who have to have something happen to them personally for them to get it. Because there’s not enough time for everything to happen to them — or even someone that they love (for those capable of proximal vicarious importance).
And there will be an awful lot of things that they’ll never get and an awful lot of people they hurt in the course of that ignorance.