• Posted: Feb 07, 2010 14:41:10
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Take a look at someone walking down the street. What you will see is the outward face of that person's public personality. Their grooming, costume, demeanor may be highly organized in the usual manner of intention. That is to say, they might seem ordinary. Or, they could appear quite unusual, unique. They might also appear disorganized, unmindful, neglectful, without intention. Whatever the degree of organization or intention we are more often than not able to make some interpretation of that person's public personality. We understand the meaning of the signs. We can guess age, sex, health, mood, perhaps occupation and membership in various classes of society. And, given the context, we might also be able to guess what that person is in the course of doing. But, unless we already know that person, it is highly unlikely we will be able to accurately guess very much substantive of the dynamics of their private inner personality, custard stains aside. (See the movie Young Sherlock Holmes.) But, take a look at the organization of one or more of the private spaces that person occupies and there is most likely quite a lot that can be learned of that person without ever having spoken to them. The signs are more numerous and much more telling.
Organization and intention are the operative functions again in such an analysis. What aspects of that person's private space have been attended to and which neglected? What choices have been made and not made in the resultant organization? And to what purposes? What comes out is much about who that person is, what their sensibilities are, their values, their sense of who they are and what is important and possible for them to achieve. But, the important thing to remember is that most of that information is private, personal, not for public consumption. The privilege granted us in viewing such information is special and it would be prudent of us to consider what might be expected of us after having been granted such privilege. It, in fact, says a lot about who we are, the reverence and respect we place upon such insight, what we do with that information once we have it. In a way, we have come to hold portions of that person's very soul in our hands. And it especially matters to them what we do with it.
Perhaps you can see where this discussion is leading. Serving self interest, we might say to that person "Wow, you've really got yourself into a mess." and then arrogantly begin offering advice as to how that person might get themselves out of their so called "mess" and more into line with what we'd consider optimum. There has been much discussion in the news this week as to how foreign aid administered in this very manner over the past 50 years has been such a colossal failure, not to mention how many marriages, family relationships, and friendships have crashed and burned because of similar attitudes. The current stalemate in the U.S. Congress over a host of issues seems on a similar footing.
For sure there are places no one should be encouraged to go, such as strapping on a bomb and into a crowd as realization of their most glorious and fulfilling private dreams for themselves. But most people do not have self destruction or world hegemony as the pinnacle of their private aspirations. Most people just want viability, a satisfying degree of self realization, and meaningful society with people they care about. And because private spaces are put together using building blocks of highly personal meaning it isn't all that hard, given the privilege, to understand people on their own terms. If help is to be offered, we'd be prudent to offer it in their terms, not our own.
Monday, October 19th, 2009