In his book Considerations, author Colin Wright addresses our conflicts over differing ideas and everyone’s struggle to make their life meaningful. In particular Wright considers the way we act towards others who do not share our same beliefs and fight for ideas that we think are wrong. “Every one of us is building the best life we possibly can for ourselves. We’re all just working from different sets of instructions.” The instructions Wright addresses are our varying experiences and backgrounds along with the education and training we have received.
What I like about this quote is that it addresses the fact that so many of us seem to act in ways or hold personal philosophies that don’t align and are unable to be merged with those of others. When we all start trying to force our viewpoints and ideas on the world without considering others, then the conflicts between our viewpoints become major conflicts between each other. What Wright would argue for is an increased effort to understand the views of others and the willingness to allow our views to change. When we become entrenched in our ideas and refuse to listen to the thoughts of others we risk alienating our fellow citizens by creating fractures in our communities and groups.
What I find challenging with this quote is relating it back to people around me who do not strive to deeply understand the world around them. Those without self awareness, who do not strive to think critically about the world and society, and who do not spend time learning and driving themselves to grow can really grate on me in their conversations. When I listen to people who have ideas and opinions that are fundamentally flawed by being one sided or simply a rehash of a major media story, I have trouble giving their arguments my full attention and respect. I believe that we are at a point where everyone feels entitled to an opinion and a political or social voice, but those privileges should be earned through study and self awareness, not through access to media and technology.
I believe that Wright would not discount the thoughts and ideas of others simply because their views were naive and not fully informed. For him, those individuals would be following and explaining their own truths and understanings about the world. He would probably encourage others to become more aware and thoughtful of the world by politely inviting them into a more considerate space.