Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Monday, January 11, 2010 , Posted by Johnny Fuery at 2:05 AM

Originally Published 2005-07-20 14:12:10

Keawe wrote:
"I stood in line at a grocery store the other night behind a large order with a bottle of Soy Sauce and the gal was nice enough to let me ahead of her. I regularly return the favor to unknown strangers when I am in line doing a big shopping trip.

"The great thing about humans is that they capable of being as kind and caring or as brutal and malicious as the mind can imagine. When you expect selfishness, you are likely to see it. You have created a pre-conceived conception. I find myself doing this at times at work and I try to re-evaluate my situation from a new perspective. Experience colors our perceptions and at times allows us to automatically make assumptions of others motives."

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Thanks for the grocery store anecdote. It gave me warm fuzzies, like when I used to read about Winnie the Pooh. :-D

Your proposition that the nature of man is a self-fulfilling prophecy is poignant. I agree to a point. There is something to that idea, even if, from a purely empirical sense, you're just counting the smiles that come back when you smile send them out. I even happen to think there's more than just those smiles, too, but...

I wish I could completely agree.

In your line of work, Keawe, probably more than most of us, you must be faced with individuals who are, quite simply, evil. Sure, there are redeeming qualities, and given the right amount of controls and/or favors, they could contribute something to the world, but so did Hitler.

How does this fit in with the self-fulfilling prophecy argument?

(You've heard that my father is a schmuck. He is. I think the guy is clinically schizophrenic, probably due to a head injury he incurred when I was an infant. This explanation for "why" allows me to let go. But he is still fundamentally, inherently, and thoroughly evil. There is no one on the planet that can say his or her world is a better place because of his existence. There are, however, many who would be quite relieved if he did pass on. Whatever power/control/energy the man has ever had has been abused towards evil ends. I could believe all I want that he meant well, I could give him a million chances to be someone worthy of even associating with, but it would be fruitless. There are simply some atrocities that no amount of goodwill can overcome.)

One more point. Keawe states that, "Experience colors our perceptions and at times allows us to automatically make assumptions of others motives."

This is an evolutionary (or god-given, if you're into that) axiom that has contributed to our survival as a species. The ability to quickly recognize patterns and adapt is a fundamental a human trait. When it rains in the spring, we get a good harvest in the fall. When I eat this or that plant, I get sick. When I yell disdainfully at someone in the parking lot, my car gets keyed. When I sincerely tell a single girl that appears slightly self-conscious about her appearance that she's absolutely gorgeous 24 seconds before asking her out, she says yes. (On the flipside, it's worth noting that Keawe's quote is also the definition of "stereotype" -- a more colorful word in some circles than the common four letter variety.)

I think that, when we're dealing with shades of grey, it's true that the lighting, i.e., your own perceptions, can make a big difference. But those things that are closer to the extremes are still fundamentally the same, and powerful preconceived notions can't change reality.

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