Respect in living


Respect in living

How do you explain what makes you ashamed?

That question can define how the world sees you, how you will see yourself, and the choices you make as you explore living.

It’s so strange to me how the voice of the man sitting across the room from me sounds like something I would hear on a soundtrack or a poetry reading, yet he is dressed in work boots and coveralls. I would like to pick his brain. I wonder what he could tell me.

Do you believe that people are their experiences, after some time? Surely our experiences shape our words, our beliefs, and what we know. I’m not sure what makes something discriminatory. I think it has to do with the value you put on another person’s life, and given that most people naturally think of themselves pretty highly (even if you judge yourself harshly), then it probably boils down to whether or not you assign the same value on another person’s life. Do you let them speak? When you pass them, will you look down? If you smile in their direction, do you smile to them, or were you “just smiling”? Is it enough to smile and look down, as if they are not worthy of your eye contact? Does simply acknowledging that they exist embarrass you?

Separate intentions for a moment with me. Could it be offensive to not make eye contact? I think so. I used to not do that, when I was most depressed and wanted to become slowly more invisible. But this is the life we live, and you cannot separate yourself from others, so long as you live. You can choose to make less of the place they could hold in your life, given the opportunity. But ignorance and hard-heartedness is a choice, and it breathes.

Give me the right to come to my own conclusions, even if you disagree with them. It is not your right to call my beliefs wrong. It is not my right to call yours wrong either. If I know about your past, then I can pay attention, and learn what questions might mean a little more to you. If I gather knowledge and give myself no gold star for having done so, perhaps we can get along a little easier. It should be a given that I respect you. You should never feel as though you need to earn my respect. You should never feel obligated to try to impress me. It is enough just to be you.

But then again, I just put my own value judgments on a hypothetical other person’s feelings. “Should”. You “should” not. “Can’t” is to deny you the ability. “Would” would be to deny you the possibly of desire. “Ought” is much more like, “to allow to take for granted and not act upon.”

Our words have meaning. But can a verb change the entire meaning of reality, used frequently? I’m not sure. Ask a linguist. Maybe he or she will be able to tell you.

I am fascinated by the beauty in a person’s voice, though (I say this as I listen to the calm voice of Frank Ocean, through headphones). Isn’t privilege just being free to use the words you want? It could lull me to sleep.

Do people choose how they speak, in terms of tone and pitch? The feeling you get in listening to someone? I think you could probably choose anything that you become aware of, for better or worse. There are really four options in any dichotomy (two choices): Yes, No, Both, and Neither. Do you accept that reality? It’s an exponential equation: 2 to the power of yes or no. (2^2 or 2 x 2 = 4 choices).

I have a low singing voice. I’m an alto, but only because I prefer it. When I’m most upset, I sing low. It just naturally happens that way. I can still hit a lot of high notes, if I decide to try. But to use my voice in a way that expresses anything worth singing about? It comes across (ironically) as deep.

The way someone speaks can be like a song, it can be soothing or comforting, abrupt or disconnected. Some languages sing more than others, just look at Chinese or the emphases put in German. It’s beautiful. Can’t it all be beautiful, in a non-trivial way? It can be intensely beautiful and simply different. It doesn’t have to be so limited, to appreciate.

If I embellish the words I use, can I augment my reality? If I decide to speak in a way that I mostly improvise (and I do), what will people learn about me, by listening? Creativity. Problem solving. Flexibilty. Can those things be spoken?

God created the Universe in a word. Can I not create what I allow to exist in the similar sum of what I speak? It will take that shape, regardless of if I become aware of it. Can it bear to be the same?

I know so few things, but the little I’ve gained, I stole from others. Is it stealing if I allow myself to be taught? Or it is just the simple recognition of the fact that I can never know everything? Why should it be offensive if your idea changes how I see? Isn’t that a compliment? Your idea is worthy of praise, and the blessing it has brought into my life.

The real problem here is that people with fabulous ideas can’t make a living using them or producing them without turning into territorial jerks. You have to police the good that you have, so that you can put a price on it, and live your life with the same needs as others. If no one charged for anything, would the entire world collapse in the best way? I’m not sure. Surely that’s communism, right? Maybe the only thing wrong with communism is that it happened too soon, with leaders that really only became okay with exploiting the power imbalances they had created. Oh Marx, did you ever leave the library? That should speak louder than any book.

I want to meet people who don’t get recognition, and never have. I want to go to the many corners of the world where “making-do” isn’t taken for granted, it’s a daily reality. If you are in the habit of creative problem solving because you have no other choice and there is need, then why do we struggle to teach that same belief to ungrateful students here? I would rather learn that attitude from people who live with it, and maybe knowing them will make me more like them, after a while. I would pay a lot for that, and the perspective a person holds is intensely more valuable than their circumstances, provided they can leave them. Even then. I would fundraise just so that I could help you change the world, and that doesn’t seem so strange to me, given that we could all use your help.

I’m not exactly sure how much more complicated it has to be than that. If you do not value others, over time, you will not succeed. People do not exist inside a vacuum. I’d rather learn from people who I know have a better chance of being worthy, through actually having to cultivate caring for others, through their culture. They could teach me so much more than being in college, yet I started this for the degree that I need to move forward, and I will get it. I need that slip of paper just like I need to be able to learn to save money. I need them for the future, for my family, and for the ability to provide for others. Provision should not have a gender.

I want to be surrounded by people I can learn from, because I don’t believe in having just one person help and another person receive. Love cannot be so one sided, ESPECIALLY in therapy. I would like to learn to listen well, and I don’t want compensation for that (instead of how it is typically done in clinics in my country), I want to learn from you, so that I can help others better in the future, having learned from the wealth of living that you have to teach me. I cannot live your life, but I can respect you long enough to learn from you. Should that be callous? You have so much to offer me just by existing. Your life has value. Why should I want to profit from that?

If something is good, it will be good regardless of if people appreciate it, and I want to grow to appreciate more progressively. I want to choose to be better, because I can. I want to be invested in my community to the extent that I can recognize the similarities and differences in the rest of the world, and listen better and talk less. Shouldn’t I want those things? Respect is simply not so simple.


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I am a second-grade teacher and pastor-to-be who loves people. I spend my weekends with friends or wandering the museums of DC alone and with a journal, trying to put words on the places of the soul that still feel wordless. I spent most of my days at school trying to learn patience through my students and running on sheer nerdy passion. I follow Jesus Christ, and savor that as my most important identity--that I am a child of God, as are infinite others, regardless of their other identities. Christ is my one thing.

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