I don’t like sports. In my earlier years I had an angry politically polarized opposition to them in a way that is generally reserved for our self-righteous youth. My infuriation was typical: The disproportionate allocation of resources and attention on sports vs. arts and education. The destruction of the environment to keep our elitist golf courses pristine. The lack of respect for education by the “dumb jocks.” The artificial world created by lugging children around the town creating a never ending scheduling hell and distracting obsessions when there’s real work to be done in the world. I could have gone on for hours.
Do you know what gets the highest number of viewers on television? Football. People really like football.
Recently, I had the most delightful evening with a friend I met about a year ago who is on his way to becoming a very dear friend of mine. We sat and talked for hours and we both walked away better people. We allowed ourselves to be changed.
Allowing yourself to be changed does not feel comfortable, indeed you must go through some irritation. There were so many moments where my tight grasp on my beliefs wanted to shut down the conversation. Wanted to send me away feeling correct and firmly holding my view of the world in place.
In talking about rape on college campus he said, “I just want to smack these young girls for allowing these boys to behave like this.”
My feminist brain exploded, alarms going off, shouting inside about victim shaming, responsibility etc. insults dying to pour from my mouth and put this man in his place.
Thankfully the side of me that’s constantly curious kicked in. I listened. I asked questions. Why do you think that is? Tell me more. I wasn’t trying to win the debate, I wasn’t trying to wait for my moment to make my point, I was curiously trying to understand who he was and what he thought. And he was equally curious.
We learned. We grew. We talked about life. We talked about why teen girls seem to lose their self-worth and assign it solely to the attention they can attract and hold from boys. How much of who we are is inherent and how much is learned, dissecting specific examples from our lives to see what we brought into the situation and what we learned from them as the incidents shaped us. We discussed whether equality should mean lowering the bar to let more in or raising the floor and how to raise the floor for all. We talked about language, the beauty of it, the weaponization of it, the responsibility of the quick tongued.
We talked about curiosity.
I was in a hotel bar eating some lunch and the Tom Brady story was on every T.V. people were talking about the decision to allow him to play after the famous ball-deflating incident of 2015.
I exhaled my solidly held hatred for a world I don’t understand and I texted my friend who likes football. I asked him, what happened with this story? Why did they change their minds? Why does it mean so much to people? I asked the bartender, what’s this all about, what are your thoughts on it?
Empathy is about being able to put yourself in another’s shoes. Curiosity allows you to open the solid grip on your world perspective and to be effected by the world. Without allowing for constant curiosity we will achieve the very sad accomplishment of going to our graves unchanged. We will remain solidly stuck in the place we came in at, with no better understanding of ourselves or the world around us.
Without curiosity there is no empathy, without empathy there is no learning, without learning we can confidently remain on our conveyor belts with our securely adhered blinders on until the end of our lives.