November 22, 2012

Broadening Your Horizons

Photo Credit Michelle from InLightImagery
I believe it's very important to grow. As people, we have a fundamental duty to be better people. Now, this duty has several meanings. It can mean being better by being healthier. Being better by being nicer. But it can also mean by being more. By expanding our identity, and learning new skills, and building the foundation of who we are.

For me, this means a lot of exploration. Of learning new things, of broadening my horizons. 

This first time I "broadened my horizons" was when I read my first philosophical treatise. I was suddenly exposed to a radical new way of thinking. I learned something new. I became just a little bit less ignorant.

Since then, I have been voraciously seeking out new ways to grow and expose myself to new ideas. I've watched hundreds of documentaries. I read everything, even things that I don't agree with (like traditional Taoism). I talk to people, and ask them about their lives, how they feel, how they experience and see life. I look at different cultures, different religions, different languages and mannerisms... even in music and art, I try to constantly expose myself to new things.

This exploration has become an adventure in itself, and I'm always seeking out new ways to grow. I read a lot of self-improvement books. I'm going to travel someday - so I can directly expose myself to new cultures and new experiences.

But there's one fundamental aspect to this, that without which none of this growth would be possible. I learned to accept that I don't know everything, I'm not always right (in fact I'm usually wrong), and that I can never, ever judge someone no matter how righteous I feel because I don't understand, and I will never fully understand.

A good illustration of this fundamental principle is my mom. My mom is a Type 1 diabetic. She will never be better. She is always sick, she always feels sick. Her roller-coaster blood sugars can never be completely controlled. I can sympathize with this - I can listen to her, try to understand, be compassionate and accept her experiences as true. But I will never truly understand - because I can't feel it. I am not in her body.

And that's true with everyone. No human being has ever shared an experience that is exactly the same as someone elses. Now, that's not to say we can't understand each other.

But it's important to remember, so that we can humble ourselves when we've made an innacurate judgement. For example, for a very long time I thought all ranking millitary officials were war-mongers. I had someone very clearly point out to me how wrong I was, and in the process I hurt someone I cared about because of my ignorance. So I humbled myself, I apologized, and I learned.

I broadened my horizons.

I greatly encourage you to do the same.

What are you doing to broaden your horizons?

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