snail crawling

Relativity of Life

By now one must be asking oneself why it seems that every time you get closer to what you want it seems further away. Why every attempt at knowledge seems to raise new questions about what life is? Why it seems like we never seem to truly know something we think we know?

The answer is simple. It is the absolute relativity of almost everything we classify as knowledge. This I must point out at this point is only true when there is no moral, ethical spiritual or behavioural reference point as what you find in Christianity, Islam and a few other religions. Absolute relativism simply implies that absolutely nothing is Absolute. Knowledge is constructed not given. Knowledge is contextual not absolute.

Susan is 30 yrs young and married and is now contemplating a divorce. She lives in a small town in the north east of Scotland called Inverurie. On a bright summer day when Susan was 8 years old playing out with a couple of friends in her primary school playground she met a boy named Ben. It was love at first sight. Up until last month Susan was certain Ben was the only man she would ever love. She had known no other and Susan felt that any man that was not like Ben was no man at all. Ben was tall, handsome and charming. He was a great man and a passionate husband. Susan and Ben have been married for about 10 years now. But lately Ben is no longer like “Ben”. He isn’t as charming as he was, he barely listens anymore, he doesn’t take any time out to love her like he used to and he does not seem to appreciate her effort anymore.

Susan is confused. She decides to ask Ben. Ben doesn’t seem to know why. He isn’t even aware that he has changed. He thinks he is exactly the way he was. Susan thinks it’s a front/ cover up to some deeper emotional trouble.

Susan starts to think, what is going on? Why has he changed? Susan starts to think it might be that she gained a bit of weight? “But I have always been this way” Susan thinks. “Well maybe he is cheating on me” she answers herself. “Maybe he just doesn’t love me anymore; maybe I don’t need him anymore? Well if he doesn’t love me I won`t love him too”.

Susan`s world is scattered. Her organised life becomes chaotic and it doesn`t matter whether her pain is perceived or real her reaction is the same. It doesn’t matter whether he is just having an off period. It still isn’t the way it used to be. Susan attempts to reconstruct her world by attributing different explanations to something uncertain. After all how can it be certain when Ben himself might not know exactly why he changed or if he changed at all? Susan bases her decision to divorce him knowing that she might not know the real reason.

This example is obviously fictional but in some ways showcases some of our perception in real life. One must be able to point the most important aspects of this example.

Firstly, a perceived grievance is just as serious as an actual one. It doesn’t matter whether a man actually committed a crime or not, he will still be treated like he did as long as we feel he did. In simple words, would you leave a suspected paedophile alone with your kids even though a jury found him innocent? We are all guilty of this. Just accepting that it might be possible that we don’t know the absolute truth is the first and arguably the most important step. It shapes the next stage, the interpretation of the information.

When we truly understand that no knowledge is absolute but constructed we would understand that just because you were told leaves are mostly green doesn’t mean that they actually are (wasn’t it someone that decided on the name “green”, it really could have been called anything). One must learn/ train themselves to focus on only the facts. In other words whether a leaf is called green or not, it “photosynthesises” (this is a fact) It doesn’t matter whether my sister is here or not. I know she loves me; she doesn’t need to see me every day for me to know this.

How many times have you been wrong about people and situations? That footballer would never make it? My classmate would never amount to much? Education is the only way to success? Miracles don’t really happen? The earth is flat? Coloured people are inferior? My child is special? He/ She would always love me? Why have we not learnt that we don’t always know everything? Would this not help you argue less with people?

In life we never stop learning. We think we do, but we actually never stop every single piece of information re-shapes our understanding of the world and in turn reshapes our behaviour. Let me illustrate this by using an example.

Tom was a Christian, a God fearing man, he loved God with all his heart, and he always had. All of Tom`s life God was all he had ever known, Christianity was all Tom was and he lived by every word that came from the bible. When Tom was 27 yrs old Tom prayed to God for a partner that would love him and help him grow spiritually. Two weeks later Tom met Sandra at a church function. Sandra was beautiful, and just like Tom she had a heart for God. Tom and Sandra went on to get married and stayed married for 16 yrs, they had 3 beautiful daughters and a son. One winter afternoon Sandra had a ghastly car accident that left Sandra paralysed from the neck down and killed all of their kids.

Tom cursed God for he could not understand how his heavenly father would watch and allow this terrible thing to happen. 6 months later Tom committed suicide for he had always felt that his life was to serve God and now that he no longer believed there was a God there was no point living anymore. Tom was 45 yrs old.

I am sorry to use such a graphic illustration, it is simply to create shock and drive home my point. This event changed everything that Tom believed in. Tom who was 45 yrs suddenly decided that everything he felt he knew all his life to be absolute he no longer felt was the truth it reshaped his reaction and thus his behaviour. Tom`s situation is undoubtedly relative and obviously subject to interpretation (After all a worse situation happened to JOB in the bible but God used his problems to strengthen JOB`s faith, please read the book of Job 19:1-26 in the bible for an alternate way to re-act).

This example illustrates that at any time something can happen that would shake our world and if/ when this happens nothing that we learnt in the past would seem relevant. Remember at all times we are always simply a bad decision away from losing everything, love, life, loved ones, our house ,everything really. What we think we know today could mean nothing tomorrow.

I said from the beginning of this book. My sole purpose is not to make decisions for you (I have no right to), but to help you make better decisions, to understand situations better. Interpreting information right helps you make better decisions. It’s not rocket science it’s pretty obvious.

If you understand that what we think we know today may not be what we accept as the truth tomorrow and that this change in reality can/ would inevitably change our behaviour. Why do we not know that all it takes is a change in your partner’s environment to evoke a change in him or her. Life is always changing so he/ she would never always be the same person you met all those years ago. Why should Susan expect Ben to be the same guy? Why should you expect your husband not to change, dint you change yourself? After all your face or body isn’t the same or is it? Your urges, aspirations and motivations are different?

Why can’t we accept that people are not just one person all their lives, but different people at different stages of life. It is simply called maturing. The problem is that people often use this term as a label indicating the development of fully functioning adult parts. As humans we mature all our life. We never stop maturing. Every year your husband gets better. He learns more about your likes and dislikes, he learns how to please you both sexually and emotionally, how to make you smile when it counts and bring you down to earth when you need it. We never stop needing to learn. So who he was yesterday is not who he is today and might not be who he is tomorrow. The true disasters in character building happen when we refuse to learn or cannot learn any more. If you know this why is his/her change so unacceptable? If it causes a real problem (not a perceived or cautious problem) speak about it. If you are with someone that really wants to see you happy they would do something about it but be careful not to ask for him to change something that might also completely change him. Or you just might be where you started from.

I believe strongly that when selecting a person the most important thing to look for is how they respond to change? Not whether they are perfect. If your partner has a weird way of chewing food, you either accept it or move on? If his mother dies does he try to get on with life or sulk for 13 months?

Just like with the example look for the facts, things that cannot change regardless of change. These things are often known as character. If he/she isn’t violent when trouble strikes their first reaction would not be violence.

But what is most important do not at all cost construct your reality of what a person is just because you want them to be that way. Always retain an objective eye; after all it’s your life too.