When I was a child, my father asked me what I thought was the center of the universe. I thought about it for a couple of days, but never really had a good answer. He finally told me that I was the center of the universe because everything I did was through the filter of my experiences, everything I saw was through the lens of my viewpoint, everything I said came through the voices in my head.
I think he really believed that. He ran our household as if he were the center of the universe, so I believed him. Not so much that I was the center of the universe, but that he was!
Today I was thinking about how each of us is so different, how we see things through our own lens, our own filter, our own experiences. I realized there are troubles and secrets that color how we see the world and its issues. Our upbringing and challenges along the way shape how we feel about things.
No one has the exact same frame of reference that I have. Sometimes I just can’t see another person’s view (how in the world do you hear Laurel??!?) I really try to see where you are coming from, but with such a different life experience from yours, sometimes it is really difficult.
To a certain extent, my father was right. The problem was that he didn’t see the bigger picture. Yes, you see the world through your own understanding. Stopping there is a problem. It lets you feel that your way is the right way, the only way.
The next step has to be going beyond that to try to understand where someone else is coming from. To try and at the very least, understand that they are coming from some place very different from you. And that while we are coming from different places, we are also alike in other ways
We all want acceptance and love and to be heard.
I might filter everything through my past, but I have to then be able to to listen to your experiences and realize they make you see things from a different perspective. I have to be willing to acknowledge that difference and at least try to see where you are coming from.
When you accept a role in a play, you have to put yourself in that character’s life. You have to create their backstory based on the information given to you in the script. And then you have to flesh out that history with parts of your own experiences to make it real and relatable for you. You have to explore how you are like the character and how you are different.
When given a part that is just like you, it is pretty simple. When handed a role that seems to be nothing like you, it might appear impossible. If you look, you will find some part of yourself in every character. And if you are good at what you do, you will find out the differences and try to relate to them.
Just as with people, each character has good qualities and bad. No one person is all evil or all goodness. You have to find the good in a character to make them palatable to portray and for the audience to care about. You also have to find their ugly side in order to make them real. We talked about this in my last workshop and I think it was eye opening for the kids to think about every character having good and bad sides to them.
We all have those good traits and then we have those characteristics that we hope don’t really show. We all have our lovable side and our dark side. All of this is framed by our view on the world.
So how do we find common ground? Just as when an actor looks for the character’s good points, even when they are the villain, we have to try to see the good side of people, even when we think they don’t have one. We have to try to see things from their perspective and we have to open up to the idea that we all have tendencies for good and bad.
We have to remember that maybe the other person is coming from a totally different background. Maybe they are good people that you might agree with on other issues (or maybe not.) We need to listen and try to see their side, even if we never can agree on some issues.
I might have a totally different past from you. I might have a totally different outlook on things from you. I might never agree with you on some things. But I have to remember that I am NOT the center of the universe and neither are you. We have to try to find whatever common ground we can, and build from there.