As you know by now, I love words, and how we use them to build concepts. The definitions I use aren’t the “right” ones, but it’s good to be really clear about meaning when you use a word, especially in conversation. One time I was talking to a co-worker, and used a word that to me meant “tree-hugging hippie”, but quickly found out that to him it meant “devil worshiper”. That’s a conversation stopper. The word was “pagan”. So let’s explore some words, and the concepts they represent…
First, let’s talk about observation. If I notice that you are wearing a blue shirt, we can all agree, that’s observation. The confusing part of this concept to me is that if I notice other (testable and mutually agreed upon facts), it’s considered judgmental. For example, I notice someone is obese, or short, or disabled, or even really smart. Why are humans stuck on the idea that equality requires homogeny? Observation does not include an assignment of better or worse.
Next, I may form an opinion based on my observation combined with my conditioning. For me, I consider the original information to be purely sensory input, until my brain starts adding right and wrong / good and bad. Noticing a blue shirt is one thing, deciding it looks either really good or really bad on that person is another. The longer I dwell on a subject, all the while adding commentary, lets me know how strongly opinionated I am about it.
Then we come to judgement. I have spent years trying to decipher this one, and I’ve boiled it down to this: Judgement is just a verbalized opinion. Once your opinion leaves the confines of your head, and enters the world around you, it will be noticed by others. If a person always gives compliments (positive judgements), then people feel relaxed in their presence. If they aways criticize, then people feel a bit on edge. One thing is for sure, if a person consistently verbally expresses their opinions, they will express them about you, as well, for better or worse.
Ending a sentence with “but that’s just my opinion” doesn’t make it any less of a judgement. Try it on… if someone tells you “your hairs looks bad” or “your hair looks bad, in my opinion” does it feel any different? People don’t really like to own their judgements, so they soften it by saying it’s just an opinion. It gives the speaker a little comfort zone of denial, but the words hit just as hard.
This is another one of those head scratching moments for me. Why do some people feel the need to constantly narrate their opinions? Are they seeking validation? Do they think the rest of us are missing something without their opinions? Do they just like the sound of their own voice? I’m sure it different for each person, but it’s a fascinating thing to watch. Like a blind person touching walls to define the space, their verbal chatter seems to define their world. Hmmm… never a dull moment, watching muggles.
Judgement also involves emotional attachment. It feels sticky. It usually includes “should” or “shouldn’t”, and can be directed at the self or others. It is generally negative and controlling. “I shouldn’t have eaten that ice cream, now I have failed at my diet.” “They should go to jail for speaking against war, it’s unpatriotic.” Lots of misguided control. Lots of condemnation. A black and white view of the world, usually based on conditioning. Pretty unpleasant stuff, really.
Many spiritual teachings warn us to watch our words. Words are powerful magic, both spoken and written. Beyond asking yourself if it is true, necessary, and kind before you speak, the deeper concern is asking yourself what your motivation is for sharing. Why are you speaking? Are you being helpful or controlling? Are you sharing information to keep people informed, or divided? What is really driving your need to speak? Know thyself.
Discernment is the decision you make for yourself, without attachment to anyone else’s behavior. Discernment feels very neutral, with no emotional charge. It’s isn’t a decision that needs to be shared or validated, it’s just what right for you. Birth control is an area of personal discernment. People try to make it political and emotional, but in the end, everyone needs to make the choice they need to make. When we use discernment, we can see many sides to a situation, we weigh the options, and make a choice with a clear head. Then we let it go. Discernment doesn’t have strings attached.
And we just have to mention alternative facts. Those are just lies. I completely understand that “facts” change over time with our scientific perception (the world is no longer considered flat, nor does the sun revolve around it), but we collectively agree on things so we can communicate. We should always be open to new possibilities, and keep questioning social norms, but let’s not just start making stuff up to see if it catches on. We collectively agree to call the sky blue, so giving an “alternative fact” of it being orange isn’t in any way helpful to communication. Just don’t do it. Alternative realities and parallel universes are a different matter, but we always qualify them as “alternative”, not “fact”.
Then there are theories… like this one. There is no right or wrong, just an attempt to explain the world around me. All I can hope is that my rambling sparks your own thought process. I just want to throw out some possibilities for you to ponder. Do we really spend too much time thinking, or just too much time playing with our opinions? I leave it for you to discern.