Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why it helps to know about the elements

Knowing something about the elements can help explain our own behaviour, the behaviour of other people and in particular our behaviour in relation to other people. We do not exist in isolation. Everything we do impinges on those around us, as they impinge upon us. The well-worn cliché about raising a finger here on earth and thereby altering the movement of the most distant star is just as valid in the purely human sphere of our relationships to one another. Nothing I do can leave another close to me untouched, just as they in turn cannot fail to influence me. Often these influences may be too subtle for us to notice, but they are nonetheless there. Sometimes, of course, they are so obviously powerful that some encounters knock us off-balance. We may like to think that we live our lives cocooned in a bubble of self-sufficiency, but we all have growing out from us soft antennae, like tendrils, which touch those passing by us, and these touches shift something in us and change our shape in small or large ways. 

If we are to smooth the path to better understanding and greater tolerance, we must not forget how different we are from one another, despite all our many similarities, and, I would say, that we are necessarily different, for this creates the amazing variety of human thought and behaviour. It is surprisingly difficult to understand how others view the world. And to those who differ from us we often react with irritation or perhaps even downright dislike, since our inability to understand their way of thinking makes us judge them harshly. We tend to criticize what is unfamiliar to us, and herein lies the root of so many of our prejudices. If, then, our understanding of the elements helps us to see where these differences are coming from, then we are well on the way to engaging in more harmonious interactions with those around us. And, however basic may initially be our understanding of the elements, even the tiniest bit of knowledge will contribute to greater tolerance, a quality sadly much lacking in the world around us, and therefore all the more to be cherished.

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