14 April 2011

thank you, gatsby

Since today was somewhat uneventful, I'm going to focus on a small lesson I learned from The Great Gatsby. It's on the first page of the book and it's a strong way to start out the book, I think. Here is the quote: In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had." It's important that we remember this quote and its message. We are much more affluent than other people are. And we have to realize that we are. Sometimes we say "we are a very affluent nation/state/town [whatever you say]". But we don't really realize what those words mean. It's like the difference between hearing something and listening to it. I can hear people talk; it sounds like multiple tones of sound that sometimes pause. But listening to someone is much different. The same is true with reading and processing. I guess since we all live in places where for the most part everyone has a car, a house, a fridge, a TV, a job/school, clothes, food and water, we don't even think that somewhere in the world someone doesn't. Think smaller. Think your group of friends, or your family, or your job. There's usually some pretty average people, some absolutely over-the-top overachiever perfect people, some slackers, some annoying people, some incompetent people, and some who put us all to shame with their prize-winning skills. There's almost always someone we envy, for whatever reason. But the thing is, we might only know one half of the story. For instance, in a book I read, the main characters were all jealous of one other girl - she was pretty, kind, athletic, smart, and artistic. Everyone loved her and she was nice to everyone. But the girls later found out that she was the woman of the family, since her mom had died, and she had to do more chores than any of the girls combined. When we think about it - when you think about it - you are more fortunate than every single being on earth, in some respect. Maybe you are really attractive. Maybe you have amazing athletic skills. Maybe you are really smart. Maybe you are a really great entrepreneur. Whatever it is, you personally are the best at something. You might not think it, and that thing might be small, but it's true. I believe that every single person has the exact same amount of advantages in life. You may completely disagree. But that all depends on what you consider valuable. You might say billionaires have it the best - but perhaps they came from broken families and worked their way tot he top. Perhaps they don't even have good friends or good health. They might be depressed or sad. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum are the poor and hungry living in the world's worst conditions. They might have nothing of material value - but they might have an amazing family who supports each other, a great work ethic, and an amazing amount of courage, hope, and optimism. And those things count just as much. Judging people is something natural that people do. It's how we assess our surroundings, our peers, and ourselves. But sometimes we are too quick to set our thoughts in stone. We might miss the main idea. We might think the homeless person down the street has nothing - we might judge what they wear, how they talk, how they carry themselves - without even knowing they are homeless. We might even pick on the prettiest, the smartest, the most talented person we know because we are envious of them. But what we see might not be all there is to the story. "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had." These are strong words, and they are important for us to remember. And as we know, "advantages" could be anything from money to looks, brains to talents. Being judgmental is actually one of the chief causes of conflict in our world. If you look at world history, yo can see that many - if not all - wars could have been prevented with mutual understanding. Let's try to move towards a world that not only accepts, but understands.

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