Tuesday, October 7, 2014

One vs. All

I had just been introduced to this woman. Literally, three minutes ago. Upon discovering I am yet unattached: "Well, at this point, you have to be willing to compromise on some things."

I may have gone a little ballistic in expounding on the myriad of matters I have been stupidly "compromising on" since I began dating, never mind recently, before Ma hurried me away. 

When people see a certain situation, and I must confess I am no different, we tend to swiftly manufacture a single cause and a single solution (no pun intended). But not every matter stems from the same cause. Take the art of medical diagnosis; what I learned from "House M.D." is that symptoms can be due to a host of illnesses or conditions. 
I don't think of myself as a statistic. I think of myself on my own, personal journey, with my own freedom of will (that can be executed to a limited degree as I am surrounded by occurrences outside of my control). 

That is what I considered as I read David Brooks' "Stairway to Wisdom." 
This academic research offers a look at general tendencies within groups. The research helps you to make informed generalizations about how categories of people are behaving. If you use it correctly, you can even make snappy generalizations about classes of people that are fun and useful up to a point.
But this work is insufficient for anyone seeking deep understanding. Unlike minnows, human beings don’t exist just as members of groups. We all know people whose lives are breathtakingly unpredictable . . .
We all slip into the general patterns of psychology and sociology sometimes, but we aren’t captured by them . . .To move the next rung up the ladder of understanding you have to dive into the tangle of individual lives. You have to enter the realm of fiction, biography and journalism. My academic colleagues sometimes disparage journalism, but, when done right, it offers a higher form of knowing than social science research.
By conducting sensitive interviews and by telling a specific story, the best journalism respects the infinite dignity of the individual, and the unique blend of thoughts and feelings that go into that real, breathing life.
I must confess, again, I am guilty of such a simplistic thought process. What was my perspective of the state of "older" singlehood when I was a youthful 21? Shamefully pat and judgmental. (I believe that is known as "karma.") 

This premise of "one size fits all" is even evident as "older" singles marry, then profess to apply their own experiences to the world at large. But then again, your story is not my story

The upside of my position: I like to think I have become more empathetic, as well as more willing to see the individuality, not the generality. 


Daniel Saunders said...

As someone with a BA in history, I'm not sure that journalism is "a higher form of knowing than social science research." Different, yes. Higher? Not convinced. Under the influence of postmodernism, historical research has tended in recent years to focus on the unusual and the counter-cultural, with books about obscure individuals and groups - a valuable corrective to endless books about Dead White Men, but it can be taken too far and give an impression that the unusual is the rule.

But, agreed, we're all on our own journeys and shouldn't impose our own realities on other people.

Don't be too hard on your twenty-one year old self though; she's matured and gained wisdom. I shudder to think of my twenty-one year old self... and in ten years time doubtless my forty-one year old self will look back at me and shudder.

Princess Lea said...

I wasn't referencing this article in terms of journalism; I'm not particularly interested in journalism. I referenced it for the other aspect.

Thank you for the boost; I feel like slapping my past and present self at times.

"and in ten years time doubtless my forty-one year old self will look back at me and shudder."

As will mine! Oh dear.

Daniel Saunders said...

I think a sense of embarrassment at one's earlier life-stages is the price of being a growth-focused person.

Princess Lea said...

Very true! Without awareness and contrition, there is no progress!