Whether or not we agree with items, images or ideas coming from popular culture, no one can deny that these items shape our history, present and future. Every-so-often, one of these popular ideas waxes profound, providing a glimpse into ourselves that couldn’t have been seen via more obscure or less relevant methods. Once the popular culture changes our view, we can never see an object in the same manner.
This brings to mind a video filmed by actress, singer and dancer Jennifer Lopez, “J-Lo” as she popularly is called and her hit song “Jenny from the Block.” Completed during J-Lo’s “Ben Affleck” era, the video shot little vignettes of everyday scenes on a boat, in an apartment, at a restaurant-and showed that depending from which angle the viewer sees a scene, their perception and therefore understanding, is altered forever. What may look scandalous and regretful from one angle, may seem harmless and tender from another. I always appreciated the prophetic suggestion of this video-and upon each viewing, it reminded me of all those things imparted to kids by adults: That things aren’t always as they seem, never judge a book by its cover, always look before you leap
As we age, you’d think these lessons become ingrained. I, for one, constantly need reminders and this week it came from pop culture’s Facebook. Par for the course, just as in J-Lo’s video, this revelation reminded me the importance of perception. The post in question garnered quite a bit of response and commentary from Facebook friends. It read:
“Just saw a guy sitting on a bench in the subway urinate on himself in the seat. I guess he couldn’t or didn’t feel like moving… “
Now before you consider giving me twenty wet-noodle lashes in an irate tirade, consider that I thought carefully about what to say before sending the tweet that ultimately fed to my Facebook page. Thinking I’d painstakingly measured all possible angles: “that’s too raunchy, this one’s too serious, the other doesn’t convey the levity I’d like,” after careful consideration, I concocted a statement that seemed to accurately paint a picture that conveyed my dismay with humor and frivolity. And based on the responses, so also thought many of my Fbfriends-that is until a fellow yoga instructor changed the course of the conversation. In one fell swoop, there was an abrupt stop to the comments, feelings of guilt among some participants and reminder for me: Things aren’t always as they seem.
The original post garnered a stream of responses including “EW,” “ummmm yuck,” and “Wow, how do you do it.” Then came one of a different ilk:
“Funny how life works the images we see. In India it was one scene after another of poverty and joy. I learned a lot from those folks. I prayed for numerous strangers during that time. Sometimes I think that the entire purpose for them is to open our eyes to suffering and the contrast that is…”
A very thoughtful response, written from the heart and one most likely meant to foster understanding and support a different view so we all may spread a bit more love in the world – and one I agree with wholeheartedly.
It also reminded me that no matter how much one tries -not to offend, to be considerate, to expand our sights and be more accepting- we must rely on his or her intention rather others’ perceptions, in order feel good about things done and said. Being cognizant of motives before taking action provides power in knowing that no matter the consequence, we can feel good about words spoken and actions taken.
I say this because from my friend’s remarks, I believe she perceived the person in my comment to be of less means and possibly in a terrible predicament. On the contrary, the subject in fact was a well-to-do college student who’d had a little too much fun with his buddies the previous night, and clearly was paying for it on this day. Though the perceived picture most definitely was one of merit, it certainly wasn’t one intended, as my goal was to convey the shock of seeing in such a blatantly public manner something I consider terribly private.
The lesson here? Things we say or do will not always be construed in the manner we want, no matter how hard we try, while things we see don’t always provide a full picture, so making an effort to understand will always be a better move than rushing to judge. On either end, however, it’s the intent of the thoughts, feelings and actions that allow us to know we’ve left the world in a better place than when we arrived.