Many years ago I made an interesting discovery. We don’t all look at things in the same way.
I think that really hit home with me when a friend and I went to see the movie, “Becket.” The movie was based on the play by Jean Anouilh who cast Becket, who would become Archbishop of Canterbury, as a Saxon.
By the time of the movie’s release, medieval historians were in strong agreement that Becket actually had come from the same ethnic group as Henry II and was a Norman. This, of course, undermined the entire plot of the movie. While a wonderful film with Peter O’Toole cast as Henry II and Richard Burton as Becket, it was historically inaccurate.
My friend was into fashion. When I asked her if she had enjoyed the show she said, “Oh, yes. The costumes were absolutely fantastic – and so authentic.” I realized that I hadn’t really noticed the costumes at all – being so absorbed in my pursuit of historical truth. And I decided not to tell her that the plot failed because of Anouilh’s incorrect belief about Becket’s lineage.
While this might have been an eye-opener for me – it was hardly the last time I noticed how differently we see things. I saw it time and again as I would listen to a political speech by a candidate who held an elected office – that office frequently being President of the United States.
As usual, after the conclusion of the speech, various “experts” would critique it. I found that, having listened to the speech itself and then listening to the commentaries that followed, the “experts” and I had heard two completely different speeches. What could account for this?
I understand that we all bring a certain bias to what we see and do. It’s our way of looking at things which we have developed through a lifetime of behavior, attitude and experience. But it always troubles me that so many I know, when asked if they heard “so and so’s” speech say, “No, but I heard the commentary afterward.”
It’s as though they are willing to resign their right (and responsibility) to come to their own conclusions based on first hand evidence – and are willing to allow someone else to tell them what to think and how to believe.
That is the first step toward giving up our claim to being human and is not something I am willing to cede to anybody – no matter how “expert” and well-credentialed they may be.
As I think about it – my claim to humanity is really all that I have. So I’m going to hold on to it with a very tight grip.