Dirty Streets, Clean Hands

I figured out about a dozen years ago that the more I or anyone else is sure about being right, the greater the likelihood of being wrong.  There’s no mathematical equation involved; it’s just a matter of open-mindedness.  It’s a matter of being able to see beyond one’s own point of view long enough or broadly enough to entertain its flaws.

This lesson was many years and emotional bruises in the making.  It had to evolve from a youth of frequently being criticized, through a  young adulthood of constant insistence on my near infallibility, through a lifestyle-changing early motherhood that required I let others be right, because mine and my son’s well-being depended on it.  So for the last twelve to seventeen years, I’ve caught myself learning more and arguing less when one of the top three questions I ask myself in a conflict is: “Am I wrong?”

I’ve asked that several times this week in multiple ways, including right here.  I reached out to the other side of the world to find out from one I was sure would tell me that my side of the street is dirty if, in fact, it is.  And tell me she did.

My side is dirty because it is culturally unacceptable to criticize one’s superior and potentially make him lose face.  It was incumbent upon me, in an East/West cultural clash, to accommodate the customs of his culture when in his school.  So I apologized to him for a second time.

The challenge now is to make my dirty hands matter more to me than his.  Odds are high he hasn’t entertained for a moment whether his side of the street and/or hands are clean.  No.  Correction: he’s certain he’s entirely in the right.  I have to just accept that, and frankly, that’s hard.

It’s hard because he grew up in a major northeastern U.S. city and is every bit as Western as I am when he chooses to be.  It’s hard because the attitudes and behavior of almost every instructor in the building – including the Chinese American ones who are older than Sifu – don’t reflect our leader’s strict philosophy.  The school’s teachers – Sifu’s choices – are casual, communicative, friendly and warm, with very few exceptions.

I don’t understand how the lines are drawn by Sifu or where, but for as long as I’m in his school, I have to accept that they move.  I have to follow the culture… though it appears to be a culture of one.

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About T. D. Davis

Baker and former journalist. View all posts by T. D. Davis

3 responses to “Dirty Streets, Clean Hands

  • amediablogger

    One of Hegel’s theories/arguments was that in a point of conflict everyone is right. Meaning: that each one of us does/reacts in the way that we belive to be right. Therefore, there is no wrong as such. In other words, there is a meeting point in both rights that can be used as a means to gain an alternative perspective. In order for that to occur communication is key. The question is: Do you believe it is something you want to communicate and are you willing to understand the other side? Hegel was speaking of politics but daily life is politics.

    • T. D. Davis

      Here’s the thing: this whole thing happened because I was being more communicative than I was allowed to be. I rarely have a problem talking something out, hearing the other person’s point of view, and most importantly understanding the other pov. I understand his right now; I just don’t agree with it. And I find it difficult to be okay with the fact that he doesn’t care to understand mine. But i shall soldier on, as they say, until I can’t anymore, for whatever reason.
      Thanks for weighing in. I always appreciate your input. Hope you’re feeling better.

      • amediablogger

        I guess what I meant is; is he unwilling to talk to you and attempt to understand your pov? Why is he being so unreasonable?
        I’m certainly on the mend and I’m hoping to get to work on Monday.

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