A prolific movie director once told me that he preferred maintaining distance from his admirers and general audiences of his work. The idea, quite obviously, didn’t sync well with me and being a fan myself, I registered my protest in whatever cautious way I could. He was really kind to acknowledge and even responded with the gist, “When someone knows you from a distance, through your work, they create an image of you in their minds. A very idealist image, one which ticks all the checkboxes of their approval criteria for you. An image, which isn’t entirely true. On getting closer they get to know the real you and when they see that in reality you are different from the perfect image they’ve been carrying in their minds, they get disappointed. Their admiration turns to disregard.”
What he said that day never left me and I often find myself revisiting this ‘norm’ of how we create a definitive perception about other people in our minds and then so heartlessly bind them with it out of our love.
This isn’t too wrong, don’t you think? The perception we make is one of great beauty and understanding.
Of great beauty, yes, it is. It being of understanding, though, I doubt. Understanding, my friend, is not the same as defining someone in absolute terms. There is a difference, you see. Understanding someone means accepting them in their own true colors and giving them space to be who they truly are. It means to embrace them with all their imperfections. After all, no one is perfect, right?
Whereas, when we define someone in our mind, we associate characteristics with them that aren’t essentially there in real but, in fact, are just extensions of what we wish to see in them. And this is where the problems begin. Instead of knowing and understanding the real person we start fabricating an assumed version of them for our own satisfaction – a version that fulfills our expectations of that person.
So, you mean we have no right to expect from anyone?
Expectations matter and no matter how much we despise them, in all honesty, we are guilty of expecting certain behaviors from our loved ones – whether it be the close ones that we share our daily lives with or the public figures that we look up to. This can’t really be avoided given that we are humans. What can be avoided, however, is being too extreme in our expectations. Because while we come up with all sorts of reasoning in our own personal matters, the only way we look at others is through a right or wrong lens.
Every time I think about that conversation with the movie director, my first reaction is to attempt to figure out ‘Was he right or wrong?’ And then I hold myself back thinking that does he really has to be just right or wrong? Can’t there be any other way of looking at it? How about studying it as an informed perspective coming from someone who has been in that position and may have been affected by it – so much so that it made him adopt the particular behavior of avoiding public appearances and interviews and spotlight? Plausible, no?
But what you are suggesting means that no one is ever right or wrong – it is always just a relative perspective?
What I am trying to say here is that most of our disappointments result from our own inability to accept the other person as they are, to give them the space of being their own true selves and not just confining them to our personal expectations and judgements. There is, after all, a lot of ground between the two extremes of being either right or wrong. More often than not, we give ourselves the leverage of being somewhere in the middle ground. 'I am just trying to figure it out...I am learning...,' we say – would it be entirely wrong, then, to give others the same advantage too?
A promulgation of Nietzsche’s “There are no facts, only interpretations.” Is it?
I know, this comes across as an offshoot of Nietzsche's famous words you just quoted but we can have a separate discussion on that later. For now, I hope you get my point. We need to be softer, more accommodating, more accepting. Everyone out there is not just good or bad, right or wrong, rather they are all humans – just like you and I are – flawed but trying to improve.