It is 8:36 pm on a Tuesday night. I sit on the balcony of my apartment building, as I so often do. I see people. I see passing cars. A young lady walks her dog. Three teen boys walk to the newly built Casey’s General Store right down the road. Cars pull into the complex, cars pull out of the complex. Coming and going. Sometimes I sit out here, mostly to read or write. I often become curious about the many people I see. I wonder where they came from, or where they are going. I wonder if they are happy in their present life, or if they are unsatisfied with it. I often draw my own conclusions based on their demeanor. Do they walk with confidence? Do they say hello to folks as they pass by? Do they look angry? Are they honking their car horn at another person? As insignificant as this may seem, it is thoughts such as these that often make me wonder about my judgement of others without attempting to talk, listen or understand their story. It is no secret that we live in a media-driven society, a society where our electronic devices might as well be sewn into our hands. More specifically, we are drawn to social media sites that allow us to judge from a far, much like I do on my balcony. At times, I have judged others on status updates, posted photographs, shared links, etc. Sometimes my carefully curated judgements seem rather absurd, but I guess that didn’t stop me.
Fact: perception is a funny thing.
I recently read a short story titled “The Worm in the Apple” by John Cheever. This story revolves around the Crutchman family. A family many of the neighbors grew suspicious about because of their seemingly “perfect” lifestyle. What struck me about this story was not the fact that the neighbors dwelled on their sense of perfection, but rather they romanticize this notion that the Crutchman family only appears to be problem-less as a façade. In fact, they want to find some way to unveil this family for being immensely talented at hiding suspected failures and other misfortunes. However, their perception of this family was a bit off. Though the Crutchman’s DID endure hardships and setbacks, as all families do, they were actually very good at picking themselves up afterward. I found the ending of this story to be extremely interesting when Cheever states “one might wonder if the worm was not in the eye of the observer”. This fascinates me because of its relevance to many of our own lives as well. For example, when good fortune enters another family or individuals life (and they make mention of it), many of us are not quick to congratulate them. In fact, many of us believe we are looking deeper into an individual who is insecure or “hiding” their true feelings, but choose bragging rights instead. What we fail to see is that those individuals could very well be happy and secure with their livelihood, even in the midst of pain and adversities. Perhaps our negative outlook in the midst of another’s victory should leave us asking the question related to the end of Cheever’s’ story, is the worm in the eye of ourselves, the “observer”?
Conclusion: I will try to do better.
What am I striving for in all of this? I am striving to dismiss judgement from my life and formally invite empathy in its place. Yes I will have hiccups. I am a human. My ultimate goal for the future is not necessarily to obtain treasures or fame, but to be so secure with myself that I lose my ability to judge. When we lose the ability to let judgements infect our lives, we are allowing peace to take up residence instead. As far as I’m concerned, peace itself sounds like a better roommate to have.