Not terribly long ago, I was discussing someone’s behaviour with a friend in a very matter-of-fact narration, and the friend emphatically replied, “Well, she’s just stupid!” The words were a caustic insult.
I was shocked. When I was growing up there were two s-words: “shutup” and “stupid.” I wasn’t allowed to say either, because both were insults that meant “You don’t count,” a sentiment unacceptable in my house. In case you’re wondering, “shit” never even made the list as an s-word, if that’s not telling. Point being, I was stunned to hear a thoughtful, compassionate, grounded, etheric healthcare giver adult utter the judgment, “Well, she’s just stupid!” like an incensed fifth grader. I was floored, and apparently my expression conveyed my feelings.
My friend elaborated that she had a theory. In her wise assessment, cogent adults who act with compassion toward a being in need are behaving responsibly. Such adults who act without compassion but sincerely don’t realize the impact of their ways are ignorant. They truly don’t know the effect of their actions, and the fact that they are cogent allows them to learn from their experiences. Finally, people who are cogent adults who are aware of the ramifications of their actions and don’t give a –>shit<– how they affect others are stupid, because they don’t realize how in harming someone else they harm themselves and all of us.
Even hearing it all spelled out, I thought her philosophy was kind of black and white, and well, sort of harsh. For someone such as myself who has worked really hard not to judge others, I couldn’t get my head around what she was saying. And because “Shit” was OK in my schema but “stupid” and “shutup” still don’t rank high in my vocabulary, maybe I wasn’t the best… judge. I didn’t reject her idea outright; though, I did leave it on the back burner.
Then something weird happened. I began noticing that when I encountered people who ran screaming from their truths to avoid conflict, to avoid responsibility, or to throw someone else under the bus just for the chance to drive… I caught myself doing what I now call The Stupid Litmus Test. I watched people choose to speak or veil their truths and noted the ramifications of their choices. Surprised that my friend’s philosophy had wedged itself so thoroughly into my psyche–and so quickly–I was more alarmed by the results: A lot of people are stupid.
I think often as writers we tend not to engage. We stand back and watch scenes unfold, and that limited objective vantage teaches us a lot about people and human nature. The Stupid Litmus Test taught me a lot about how people react under pressure, how we sell ourselves and each other out for so little, and that having compassion for myself when I do stupid stuff is a challenging thing. At the end of it I still quell my instinct to judge the person and redirect my focus to the behavior. The thing I most took from it is that when we speak our truths, we are in support of the Multiversal connection, our hearts are light, we feel good, we smile, we create. When we don’t speak our truths, we’re crabby little bitches who infect everyone around us with our snippy, rotten carrion-eating ways. So when I encounter someone who chooses not to act compassionately… well, yeah. That’s just stupid… behavior.
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