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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Eye Candy For the Soul

See Myself In You

"If I met you, on the corner,
Would I know you, as you are?
Would I take you, for a stranger,
And brush past you in the door?
If you called me, would I hear you,
Or would I walk away too soon?
If I lingered for a moment,
Would I see myself in you?"     

Written by Tom Kimmel and Tom Prasada-Rao
Recorded by Randy Travis

Don't we seem to seek some glimmer of our own reflection in most everything we seek to approve? In defense of a "likes attract better than opposites" theory, a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found a strong link between how the individuals perceived themselves as a mate and what they looked for in a mate. For example, someone who ranked himself or herself highly on physical appearance also placed a high level of importance on finding that particular trait in a mate. (BBC News,, July 1, 2003)

In this study, participants rated the importance of various attributes they wanted to find in a long-term mate in four basic categories: wealth and status, family commitment, physical appearance, and sexual fidelity. Then, they ranked themselves on these same traits. The findings suggest humans use a "likes attract" rule when finding a long-term mate.

"The implication of this result is that in an open marriage market, individuals of low self-perception will find it hard to find and keep a satisfactory partner, because such partners will themselves be seeking individuals of higher mate quality," wrote researchers Peter Buston and Stephen Emlen of the department of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University in New York.

The "Click" Switch

Research aside, don't most of us make "snap" judgments about some very important aspects of our lives? Our eyes see, our ears hear, and we quickly file new information based on our weak experience and our personally prejudicial generalizations. "Something about him just didn't feel right." or  "He had a certain look about him."  or  "What's up with that funny little comment he made?" We really have no clue about our uncertainties, but we choose to trust unreliable intuition and gut reaction. It seems that either the person or thing in question "clicks" our "switch" or not.

When we see ourselves in others, we tend to associate that person with trust that quickly ignites a safe, familiar understanding that pleases us. Intentional or not, a vibe enters the equation of human feelings. Anyone who has interviewed personnel knows the significant power of first impression. If we fail to find traces of ourselves in the eyes, voice, appearance, and manners of our subject, we lose initial connection. Nothing "clicks" our switch of approval.

Is it logical, then, to discard anything that we sense is different from us? Of course not, but we often choose avoidance as an acceptable behavior. We purposely cut ties and offer lame excuses for our dislikes. We all have been guilty of pushing something aside for no other reason than it fails to project a bit of ourselves. No matter what age or stage of life we occupy, we have been conditioned to believe our impressions are the right impressions.

In a Perfect World

If Nirvana did exist and all the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion had been extinguished, liberation of minds would flow with endless compassion. Humans would view each soul as essential to their own journey. But, we live in the real world of goodness mixed with evil intention. Life on earth is quick, flawed and unforgiving. We ride the carousel around a few times and desperately try to grab those things we most adore before our painted ponies expire. Failure creates desperation and confusion.

Do we honestly believe our brief exploration for mystical perfection will produce notable results? Almost every day  people hurry to position themselves in the scurrying patterns of human traffic to arrive, perform, and head back home, only to wash, rinse, and repeat the routine the next morning. The death trap of routine becomes comfortable to most. The most comfortable surround themselves with passions that "feel right" or "look right" to them.

Wide gaps between the "Haves" and the "Have-Nots" help isolate the groups and help justify reasons to hate. Axioms such as "You have to work for it"  or  "You made your own bed, now lie in it"  or  "There will always be poor and suffering people" provide fine insulation. Labels applied to others -- "disadvantaged" or "high class" or "trailer trash" -- identify friends and foes. Beliefs cause extreme controversy -- right wing, liberal, fundamental, radical. What side are you on, brothers and sisters? 

What Can We Do to See Ourselves in Others?

To be honest, I think most of us will do very little to expand our comfort zones of greater acceptance. Values we respect can be very unforgiving principles. It seems we would like to leave the sole responsibility for redemption to God. Like Pontius Pilate, we wash our hands of the ugly matters and declare, "I am innocent of this man's blood; you will see." History will make judgments at some later date.

Expanding our circles beyond family and a few close friends, we live and die. The best most of us can do for those foreign in our environment is to say, "I'm sorry" or "God bless you and help you with your misfortune."

Can you see yourself in each of these situations?

1. A pregnant woman standing with her four children in a line at the Welfare Office.
2. A forty-five year-old murderer who has already served twenty-five years, repentant and born again in Christ, sitting at a parole hearing.
3. A twenty-two year-old man, who had been molested by a priest from age 10-15, convicted of rape.
4. A Mexican illegal alien picking crops in California and paying no income taxes.

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