EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Paul offers some thoughts on the foundation and basis for mutual human understanding in shared experiences.
THE CRITICS GO NOVA! “Paul Sunstone has a ravenous appetite for stupidity. There! I said it! I said his name. My therapist tells me if I say his name often enough, I will accustom myself to it, I will numb myself, and I will no longer burst into uncontrollable giggle-snorting whenever…please excuse me. I am become disconcerted…” — Arun Ghani, India’s Blogs and Beyond, “The Herald and News”, Hyderabad, India.
(About a 7 minute read)
I was thinking today about how discrimination is horrifying even when it’s inevitable.
Specifically, how horrifying it is at my age to discover that my penis these days is several fold more discriminatory than it was 40 years ago, when I was 22. Simply put, it no longer “responds” to just about any breathing female on earth. Instead, it is totally into playing favorites these days.
I know! The shame of it!
For instance, my penis has become absolutely snobbish about wanting only women who share something of my sense of humor. By “humor”, of course, I am referring to what most people think of as “criminal assault”. Unless my penis feels some connection to a woman’s assault record, it has little or no sexual interest in her — a fact that…um…pleases all too many of you, my sometimes quite insufferable readers.
The fact is, my 22 year old self could not have understood how I — or at least, my penis — feels about women these days. Not just in sexual terms, but in just about every way. At 22, women were women first and foremost, and individuals, persons, only secondarily. Put differently, I “saw” a whole lot more differences between the sexes than I do today. Women were in my mind almost a different species. An often nice species, but a different one.
My 22 year old self would at best understand the bare bones of it (Note to loyal reader, Mistermuse: I’m calling your local Sheriff if you make a pun out of “bones”! Just so you know there will be consequences). My 22 year old self might get that women are first and foremost individuals, persons, to me today. That much he might get.
But surely he would not get all the implications of that. The arrogant fool would think he got it all, but he would not have. Trust me on this. I know my 22 year old self better than my right hand knows my impressive three fulsome inches of yearning male meat-rocket. The fool thought he understood much older people almost perfectly.
He would not have expected someone a quarter of his age to get him, but he would have sat in lofty judgment of someone four times his age. “Old fool thinks men and women are mostly alike, eh? Old fool probably gets his right and left socks on the wrong foot too!”
(It would be nice if we lived in a world in which older fools were much more inclined to use their insights to help younger fools, than to merely exploit them. “Put on a uniform, kid! Go to war against our mutual enemies! They’re your enemies just as much as mine!”)
As it happens, we humans must share similar experiences with each other if we are to “get” each other. We don’t need to share identical experiences. Far from that. We are pretty good at interpolating how someone thinks and feels based on a limited number of shared experiences. But we do — we must — have at least some minimum of experiences in common before we can understand each other.
I am not one of those old fools who thinks he’s a complete mystery to young fools. In fact, young fools can see things about me I don’t myself see. It’s as rare as a competent national politician, but it happens.
Just the other day, a mere eight year old said, “Ms. Stevens, what is that smelly old man doing sleeping off his drunk in the back of our classroom?” And you know what? She was right! I was in the wrong motel!
We look in ourselves to see others. Usually, we’re pretty much spot on. But often enough, we’re not. And when we are not spot on, we most often refuse to see it. We humans are nothing but arrogant at times in our insistence that we get someone when we don’t get them at all.
Psychological projection is the sport of humanity.
For example, a whole lot of younger adolescents are convinced the whole rest of the world is just as confused as they are about their newly discovered sexual yearnings and emerging thoughts and feelings about romantic love.
Of course, so much of that confusion is unnecessary. Absolutely unnecessary. Would it kill adults to hand each of those kids a handful of instruction manuals, such as one on testosterone? “Oh wow! So one of the most common symptoms of the Big T is feeling lonely. That’s so relatable!” What a world! How hard is it to let the kids know these things?
But old folks who should by their age know a whole lot better also indulge in unwarranted projections, especially if they get to be of an age and yet are still as foolish of a fool as they were 50 years earlier. “Poor people are lazy bums. Anyone can get ahead in this country. If I did it, anyone can. Stacey! Cancel my three o’clock. I’m going golfing.”
You might be wondering what the psychologists and other brain scientists say is the basis for the human ability to understand other humans. Currently, the hottest theories center on things called “mirror neurons”. Those are cells hypothesized to be in the human brain and that might possibly have nearly everything to do with our ability to understand each other. But the science is relatively new and nothing is firmly known about them yet — not even whether they actually exist in humans. Still worth a look.
EDIT: Since the publication of this post, I have received an unusual volume of emails from my female readers with cryptic messages along the lines of,
“Paul, just so you know, my sense of humor is nothing like yours.” — Shreya.
“Paul, I am relieved to inform you that I have never once laughed at a joke of yours. Just you, but never one of your jokes.” — Teresums.
“Keep it in your pants, Paul, your jokes face-flop with me.” — Sarah.
“Paul, love you dearly, only wish we could laugh together, but that’s quite impossible since our senses of humor have nothing in common. I’ll somehow survive, though. Don’t worry about me, Paul. Don’t even think about me! I’ll survive!” — Marysa.
“Just so you know, Paul, I’m into slapstick. Yes, I suddenly find myself into slapstick! Whew!” — Manessah.
“Paul is it you emailing me the tiny little dick pics under the pseudonym of ‘Studly Hotpeppers’? I know that’s you, Paul. PAUL STOP IT! Stop it or hire a stand-in!” — Jane.
If anyone can tell me what the 27 emails within the last quarter-hour are all about, please do. Was it something I said?