It was Thanksgiving night in New York City. My second Thanksgiving in a row. Very lucky have I been to celebrate such a warm holiday in a beautiful nation.
On occasions like that, as I savor homemade food with joy, surrounded with folks, raising toasts and cheering the night away, a shadow of lonely souls often crosses my mind; an image of homeless people and prisoners; those deprived by all means of the joy I am living.
Sometimes you wonder; why do people stray? why do they accept to lead a life appealing to nobody. Life is a gift, it is short, and we are supposed to make the best out of it. Why haven’t they been good enough -or maybe lucky enough- to avoid its misery?
It is usually easy to judge and walk away. But there surely is a logic behind any unfortunate status quo that, if well understood, can be faced with tolerance, and even put to the challenge of change.
Understanding misery is complicated, but a breakdown of its origin can be possible. We can think of people as being the outcomes of two powers;
One- the decisions they make, and
Two- external events over which they do not have control; like a random storm hitting them.
If we accept that the latter type of events is completely random and not one’s choice, we can safely assume that the origin of failure (or success) goes back to the first power- the power of our own decisions.
But then, what if a person’s ability to make strategic decisions is in itself a random outcome? In fact, our mind’s ability to decide is shaped by two powers: our genes (a biological baggage) and our environment (the way we were raised, cultures and experiences we were exposed to).
Generally speaking, it is called “the innate and the acquired”. Both of which in fact cross our lives by mere chance. Biologically speaking, meiosis, the process through which our alleles get combined during conception, is the ultimate example of randomness that nature put in place and that permits the creation of the billions of unique living creatures. In other terms, although our decisions are our own, the way our minds process ideas depends mostly on the genes that dictate their physiology. So people who have a good sense of judgment, who are witty, rational, smart, strategic, are as such due to a random event, called meiosis. Consequently, it seems unfair to judge people who were not born with these characteristics of natural fitness.
Genes however are not the unique random dictating power over human’s abilities; People are additionally subject to their upbringing, which shapes them terrifically. And although it is possible to change parts of our culture later in life (assuming we are are genetically fit enough to do so) by traveling, reading, etc., early upbringing remains irrefutably largely installed in our lives.
If we consider two biologically competent people who have comparable abilities to succeed in life: smart, analytic, and emotionally intelligent. John was born and raised in a wealthy family with a lot of history, culture, education and affection. Gill was raised in a fragmented family, with no social support, financial means, or education; John is more likely to succeed. On the other hand, if two people were exposed to similar environments but have different mental abilities, there is also a higher probability that the genetically more fit (or ‘smarter’) would allow themselves to lead a better life.
In other terms, it is a balanced equilibrium. Input versus output:
Mother nature(A) + Environment(E) = Outcome (O).
What reagents A and E put into the equation comes out as a product (O).
So the question is: Why do we blame others for their failure? Is a person really responsible for being what they are?
Blaming is well explained in psychology though. It somehow boosts the egos, puts a person at a higher level of knowledge, power, social acceptance; so we just like to do it.
Therefore, before judging anyone intolerably, it helps to think of that equation as an inspiration for tolerance. It may be that the answer is to become part of the change in the world and people lives, instead of simply judging them.