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EVOLVING YOUR PERSPECTIVE: WILLINGNESS TO LISTEN

 

We live in a world that is dominated by the dollar sign. Children are raised to understand this — taught that the briefcase-holding businessman is the ultimate mascot for success and that the man working the car wash is the antithesis of his own childhood aspirations. As we mature into adulthood, we begin to understand the intricacies of these concepts. We learn that success has a definition far less concrete than previously conceived.

Victims to our singular consciousness, we're only fortunate enough to experience life from the set of eyes we’ve been gifted. The choice is ours. Do we remain in the dark, enveloped in the safety of our comfort zones? Or do we choose to seek an alternative perspective and be a part of what broadens and progresses the ideologies of our society?

In one of my writing courses, we explored the limitations and inaccuracies of knowing only a singular perspective of a story. I've learned that we're all, ultimately, just victims to the narrative formulated for us by the misinformation and biases within our environment. It's up to all of us as individuals to recognize this and seek the information necessary to see life from alternative viewpoints. Without doing so, how can we honestly navigate through the falsehoods of our own?

However, the difficulty of doing so cannot go unacknowledged. Particularly in recent years, we’ve seen a massive surge of tension between groups with contrasting ideologies — the Democratic and Republican parties. In fact, the division of these two groups dramatically overshadows that of other groups in American society, including socioeconomic status, generational variances, and race.


Simply turning on the television or opening Twitter makes this tension impossible to ignore. Because of our human desire to be within the “in-group,” we ignore the counter-production of extremism, and narrow-mindedness is celebrated instead of condemned. 

No matter which side of the spectrum you land on, it's ignorant to suggest that the political party in which you affiliate does not contain its own set of faults and inaccuracies. It's important that we make the difficult decision to face opposition with as much benevolence as we do fortitude. That we listen closely to the arguments of our adversaries, not with the intention of proposing a valiant refutation but to consider the angle in which they see the world and how it differs from our own.

To deem yourself truly knowledgeable, one must not only have a capacity for self-reflection but the ability to make conscious, purposeful decisions to correct the behavior that holds you back from modernizing your worldview. 

 
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Regardless of political conflicts in the last few years, this ignorance is no stranger to the history of our country. The Civil Rights Movement was an era of our very recent history that was met with passionate opposition. After the Brown vs Board of Education Supreme Court case outlawed segregation in schools, the Little Rock Nine were enrolled in a formerly all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas to test integration in education.


The scene was met with a hateful and hostile mob of students who protested their presence by spitting, throwing stones, calling out racial slurs, and even death threats as they entered the school.

This confrontation drew international attention to the reality of racism in America.

The mindset of these outraged rioters is a reflection of the bigotry within their environment. These students restricted themselves to the bias story they’d been taught, refusing to seek truth in contrasting ideologies. Had they decided to see past their lens of prejudice, they would've been able to recognize how despicable and inhumane their behavior was.


Despite their noisy resistance, the perspective of society moved in a more compassionate direction, and integration soon swept the entire country.

The photos that exist of the rioters on September 4, 1957, serve as evidence of what it looks like to stand with the wrong side of history.

Within our means of comprehension, there exists a set of barriers put in place by our unique environment and a lifetime of individual experiences. It's only when we allow ourselves to look past the story that has been defined for us that we can sincerely transcend.


Here, we learn to demonstrate genuine compassion, and can truly grow and flourish from the transformative experience of human connection.