My friend’s five-year-old spotted a lady in a burqa the other day and said, “Mom, that is such a cool Ninja outfit!” My friend, who is an awesome mother, was relieved to find out that the woman hadn’t heard her little one’s comments.
I was amazed when I heard the story. The kid’s observation wasn’t tainted by time, politics, or society. He made sense of the garb, from his individual perspective, and came up with an astute remark. He held no prejudice. Every single person I have shared this story with has laughed aloud and said, “Wow, smart kid. I can see why he would say that.”
In December of 2010, when I visited Singapore to do a reading and spend time with the family, my younger niece, Sana, upon seeing my slightly off-shoulder blouse said to me, “I can see your shoulders. Cover yourself up.” I know, brat! But a darling one too!:-) I told several of my friends in NYC about Sana’s wardrobe-modesty when it came to my clothes. I laughed every time she commented, but would I have responded the same way if an adult had made those passing remarks?
If adults can see why a child would draw comparison between a burqa and a Ninja outfit, why can’t they believe that a grown up could mean no harm if they said something similar? If adults can enjoy Sana’s enforced doctrine and call it "super-cute," why can’t they deal with the same criticism from their mother or mother-in-law?
Is it because the older we get the more convoluted our thoughts become? We over think everything. We expect prejudice. The obsession with making our individual point of view clear while sipping from the cup of political correctness, or not, becomes our focus. And those who are straightforward are often sent to hell.
It seems the adult brain has no empathy for simplicity. Not when it comes from anyone who is not a child. We work with the assumption that people have hidden agendas.
When I was doing research for my first fiction novel, “Perfectly Untraditional,” I needed information on a certain sect of the society. Gosh, even someone like me, who deals with mostly shades of white and black, faltered around words. I wasn't sure how to approach them without offending anybody. I wondered if I was patronizing people or hurting their sentiments. I toyed around with questions, never wanting to assume or misrepresent anyone. I wanted my information to be authentic. So, I did tons of research for months.
When I explained my predicament to a dear friend, a part of that sect of the society I had done my research on, he said, “If the intention is good, it comes across in the query. If people get upset with your questions, even when you mean well, then it’s their problem.”
I pondered over what my friend had said. I agree that adulthood comes with responsibility—saying things that don’t hurt others. But what about curiosity? What if our intent is not malicious? What if we are mere knowledge seekers? What if we are wells that want to be replenished?
More until next time,
Copyright © 06.21.2011
“Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.” Dr. Seuss