|The Noble and the Ignoble in Gothic Architecture|
In order to understand another person's experience, one has to get off the "me" track. And that's not easy.
We are trained to think about "me." It's the first question we ask. The closer to our own reality, the more we care.
The "me" factor is complex because it is all about my world, my experience, my culture, my language, my values, my fears, my goals, my wishes, my dreams, and my beliefs. I call this a mask. The more factors there are, the more impermeable it becomes.
We are masters of mask making. We choose not to see that which makes us uncomfortable. We ignore the pain of others. We might sympathize, and possibly empathize, but rarely do we allow ourselves to care. We mask that which is imperfect or inconvenient.
19th century social commentator and architect John Ruskin authored "The Stones of Venice". He wrote about the noble and the ignoble in Gothic architecture and the shift from hand chiseled imperfect forms to mass produced perfection. He spoke of a loss of humility in the quest for perfection.
Imperfection is a mask in itself. We are afraid of imperfection so we hide from it, and do not acknowledge it. We ignore the plight of the disabled, and hope we never have to stand in their shoes. I often think of this and the many masks we use to hide ourselves from the experiences of others. Think of yours. Now multiply that by a world. This becomes even more complex when different languages are factored in to the conversation. It's all about me, to the power of the world. No wonder world peace is unattainable.
I am working with a group of people who share in a vision to create accessible visual communication for people who cannot communicate in words. I first became involved in this project when I met a speech pathologist from Saskatchewan with a compelling vision for an international standard of communication via visual symbols, or pictograms.
I was hooked. First of all, I wondered how is it possible that we have missed this? How can one group of people (which by the way could be you or I any time) who cannot communicate verbally have been locked out of the human conversation? Listening to his compassion and desire to improve life for just one person drew me in. It is compelling, humbling and important.
I have dedicated my life and work to the art and business of communication. So I feel blessed to have walked across this man's path. He has shown me something that I would never have seen if I hadn't seen it through his eyes. I am reminded that humility is a great attribute of humanity, and if we can remember to stand in some one's experience, for just awhile, we might see a world and forget about the "me" fascination.