Editor’s Column: Start listening, stop labeling

Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.”—Douglas Adams
The simplified version of this is “your perception is your reality.”

It’s the “glass half full” or “glass half empty” paradox. Both statements are true, but how you personally perceive a situation colors your world with a positive or negative hue. According to science, we don’t even see colors or hear sounds the same way the person sitting beside us does, so why would we think we would perceive the big things the same way?
We are the sum total of all the things we’ve heard or experienced during our teeny-tiny lifetimes. In other words, no matter how far we think we’ve come or how much we think we know, our knowledge is severely limited.
I hate that. I like to think I’m right. So do you (just admit it). But the truth is we are often wrong—about many things—because our perception is always skewed or biased to some degree. We “see through a glass darkly,” according to the Apostle Paul. Someday we’ll see clearly, but we aren’t there yet. None of us are perfectly right about everything… or possibly anything.
That’s why I get frustrated when people start throwing labels around like confetti: liberal, conservative; right-wing, left-wing; Democrat, Republican; Nascar, ; feminist, sexist; redneck, elitist; tree-hugger, earth-killer. I could go on.
We pigeon-hole ourselves and each other and decide we’re the only ones who are right and everyone else is wrong. Thus we justify not listening to anything they say. We can just point fingers and name call and cast blame instead, because that’s productive (sarcasm intended). Instead of having a discussion about a topic we throw out a label and act like that’s the end of the conversation. That kind of attitude makes us ignorant.
It’s time we stop with the name calling and start listening to each other. I don’t care which side of the fence you fell off of, the guy on the other side has a perspective that’s probably just as valid as yours from his point of view. It may take some digging to get down to the actual truth of the matter, but be patient.
Sure, you may find out that he or she is as big of a buffoon as you suspected, but at least you’ll have a better understanding of why.