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  • Marie Trout

Are You a Slave to Your Interpretations?

“I watch in horror as the big gas-guzzling Chevy Suburban truck cuts me off on the freeway. The man inside is wearing a leather vest and has a mad look in his eyes. He is for certain a gun toting, Jesus loving, meat eating, Conservative Republican with an agenda to kill all gays and destroy the planet by continuing to allow the corporations to attack Mother Nature through lack of regulation. Just his driving by himself in this behemoth of a vehicle shows his bad intentions.”

“I watch in horror as this tiny self-imposing Prius cuts me off on the freeway. The woman inside is wearing some hippie-dippie tie-dye shirt and has her hair in a ponytail. She looks half stoned and is not watching where she is going – surely she is on her way to the health food store to buy some more tofu and sprirulina. She is no doubt a raging Liberal Democrat with an agenda to destroy all progress in America by wiping out all private enterprise, costing us all our hard earned freedoms.”

We all do it: We interpret the world around us to have a particular meaning. Certain symbols, items of clothing, a gesture, a certain hair style or simply the way a person looks at us can trigger a whole slew of interpretations and assumptions that are often not based in reality.

In the first example above – the facts are: Chevy truck driving on the freeway with a man inside wearing a leather vest. Second example: Lady in Toyota Prius in a tie dye shirt and hair in a pony tail.

The rest are our interpretations. And we fill our lives with them all day long. They keep us from experiencing the world as it really is. Our interpretations are based on our previous experiences. And those in turn are just as much based on assumptions generated by experiences had by those with whom we have been influenced: Parents, friends, mentors, role models, etc.

What if I told you that the Chevy Suburban driver with the leather vest is a college professor with a large family? He has voted Democratic in every election since he was old enough to vote, and has a wind turbine on his property that is run off the grid assisted by solar power. And the lady in the Prius is a VP of marketing with a large corporation. She is just coming from a Pilates class on her way home to freshen up before a big event in support of the Republican party for which she is the local fundraising committee chair. That information certainly would change the original perception, right?

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. …….And the point is to live everything! Live the questions”

Imagine how much richer our lives will be when we do that: Live the questions. We assume and interpret less and instead we ask more questions. We find new information, we make new connections, we move in new directions. We discover life to be rich with possibility. We discover that we are much more alike as human beings than we are different.

I encourage you to try it: What would happen for you if you put aside the interpretations in your own life? What might you discover? How might that change your life? How might it change the life of those around you?

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