Posts tagged " individuality "

Stop Lumping Us All Together

February 6th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 32 comments

Exactly 60 days before America’s historic presidential election of November 8th, 2016, while speaking to a group of supporters in New York City, Hillary Clinton made the following declaration: “…you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?”  Candidate Clinton was still at the podium when one of her closest advisors on the campaign texted a friend saying, “With that statement Hillary just lost the race!”  He was right.

How could a smart and ambitious woman say such a stupid thing?  True, she had abandoned the TelePrompter, gone off script and was speaking from her heart.  But still, it was political suicide.

Why did she say it?  Because the temptation to lump many into one is all but irresistible.  How often do you hear politicians bolstering their own positions by saying, “The American people…”  Nice sentiment, but there has never been one American people and there certainly isn’t one now.

One often hears the phrase, “the Black community”   There is no such thing.  There could hardly be a greater gulf than that between Al Sharpton and the late, great Pastor Ken Hutcherson who was an NFL linebacker before he began pastoring the successful Antioch Bible Church in Puget Sound.  There’s nothing those two would have agreed upon other than perhaps that both their skins were black.

And for a real laugh, listen to people referring to “the Jewish community.”  The only thing  that all of America’s 4 million Jews would agree upon is that Hitler was a very bad man.  Yet most of us find ourselves saying things that lump the many into the one.

Why do all my children always pick a busy morning to act up?  All the available men out there are emotionally needy adolescents.  None of my employees appreciate how much I do for them. 

This is not to say that generalities have no value.  Of course, there is some truth to generalities.  In general, teenage boys drive more recklessly than teenage girls.  In general, customers in that zip code look more to quality than price.  By using the phrase “in general” we acknowledge that not everyone is included.

Why do we feel drawn to lumping the many into the one?

Reason 1:  It is emotionally satisfying to strip the individuality of those annoying us and see them all as sharing one common negative trait.  Those Moslems are all the same.  All TSA agents are recruited from a special pool of the dimwitted.

Reason 2:  We are subconsciously enchanted by the unity of monotheism.  Everything is created by and controlled by one God.  I may not fully understand that, but I believe it and love living in a world explained by that simple reality.  One is appealing.

Just think which of these feature articles you’d be most likely to read.  (a) The Number One Reason Women Wear Makeup.  (b)  Twelve Reasons Women Wear Makeup.  (a) Seven Really Fast Cars Below $70,000.  (b) The Fastest Car You Can Buy for Under $70,000.

When he died, Albert Einstein was trying to discover what he called The Unified Field Theory.  We already had four perfectly solid theories that explained the behavior of different forces like gravity, magnetism, and nuclear.  But Einstein wanted one simple theory that did it all.  Lumping the many into the one is nothing more than asserting a unified field theory for the many different things or people on our minds.

Lumping the many into the one misleads us.  Often in casual conversation, the damage is minor and short-lived.  However, when we start habitually thinking in terms of lumping the many into the one it accustoms us to an incorrect way of judging reality.  We lose our ability to observe subtle distinctions.

Consider the first chapter of the Bible.  Quick now…what did God create on Day One?  That’s right, heaven, earth, and light.  Day Three? Dry land and vegetation. Day Four? Sun, moon and stars.  Day Five? Sea life and birds.  Day Six?  Animals and humans.  That’s basically the story of Creation.  But wait!  I left out Day Two.

What did God create on Day Two?

And God said let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters and let it divide water from water.
(Genesis 1:6)

Do you know what a firmament is?  The only definition I can confidently share with you is that firmament is the word the translators of the King James Bible in the 17th century came up with for the Hebrew word RaKiaH.

And God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament, and it was so.
(Genesis 1:7)

Back to my question, what did God create on Day Two?  Apparently some inexplicable and unnamed thing that divides between one set of waters and another.  Distinguishing between two or more humans is usually quite easy.  One should easily be able to avoid the temptation of saying, “All my customers try to irritate me.”  Distinguishing between different makes of cars is quite simple.  But the one thing that is hard to distinguish is one cup of water from another.  Or for that matter, can one really tell the difference between water from one ocean and water from another? Where do the waters of the Indian and the Atlantic oceans really meet?  Cape Town’s tourist bureau insists that this occurs right in the shadow of Table Mountain, but the truth is that nobody can know.  It’s impossible to separate one water from another.  Yet that is exactly what God does on Day Two.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that on Day Two God created distinction and separation. Day Two is the only one of the six days on which we don’t hear God saying, “it was good.”  Separation, distinction, and division are absolutely necessary, but they have the potential to drive humans apart and we must know how ‘not good’ that can be. Our challenge is to make distinctions while respecting each other.

At the moment, our society feels an almost irresistible temptation to lump the two genders into one group of humans utterly indistinguishable from one another by any fixed sexual reality.  The sixth and seventh verses of the first chapter in Genesis teach the importance of making distinctions, appreciating those distinctions and recognizing their value.

The magical but highly improbable living arrangement we call ‘marriage’ functions precisely because it is between two different kinds of humans, men and women.

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One in a Million

February 8th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

A neighbor of mine is passionate about sports and the father of four young boys. Even though I’m only a casual acquaintance, I can see how different each of his sons is. Though the third boy clearly has the soul of an artist and just wants to be left alone to draw and paint, he is herded into the backyard for touch football games along with his brothers. I watch this young boy’s spirit being crushed when his ineptitude with a football costs him his father’s esteem. All too easily we mistakenly assume that just because people share one feature such as, “they’re all my sons,” they are therefore identical.

Similarly in business, we segment customers by clever marketing criteria. Then, because they live in the same zip code or read the same magazines, we mistakenly assume they all share identical desires and priorities. Likewise, we share many characteristics, ideas, and actions with our friends, relatives, and colleagues but we can trip up when we forget that notwithstanding the similarities, each of us is unique.

Scripture teaches this vital lesson in human interaction. When the Tabernacle is completed, God directs Moses to allow the heads of each tribe to bring a gift, one leader after another on successive day. (Numbers 7:11)

In six long verses, the Torah then relates that on the first day Nachshon, of the tribe of Judah, brought a silver bowl and a silver basin containing flour and oil, accompanied by a gold ladle filled with incense. Rounding up the gift were twenty-one different animals. (Numbers 7:12-17)

The next six verses inform us that on the second day Netaneil, of the tribe of Issachar, brought his offering. Would you believe that he brought exactly the same items, even with identical dimensions? (Numbers 7: 18-23) The following six verses tell of the third day, the only difference being the name of the leader and tribe. (Numbers 7: 24-29)

So it goes for seventy-two interminable, repetitive verses. Twelve heads of twelve tribes on twelve successive days brought exactly the same gift. (Numbers 7:12-83).

Don’t you agree that it would have been more concise for the Torah to have said, “And these are the names of the heads of the tribes each of whom brought the following gift.” The next six verses could then detail the gift. Doing so would have saved us reading over sixty repetitive verses.

Well, had the Torah been written by humans and edited by humans, that is probably what they would have done. But instead it is God’s message to mankind and each passage is written in the best way to convey vital information about how the world REALLY works. Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches us how to decode it.

The message here is that while it is true that each tribal leader brought the same items, each gift was still distinct. The spiritual symbolism of the different items was understood differently by each man. God, who created and cherishes every human being separate from all others does not lump them all together. What a lesson for us! Just because people are superficially similar or seem to do similar things, it is wrong to assume they are identical.

This is a powerful message for us as parents, as friends and as business professionals. Whether in personal interaction, by phone or by email, it is good to let each person in our lives know that he or she is not being treated in a standardized, bureaucratic way.

Of course, because your income depends on how usefully you serve as many people as possible, you frequently can’t relate to customers individually. However, everyone wins when you seize opportunities as they present themselves to acknowledge a customer as a cherished, unique person. I know that many of you benefit from using the principles from one of our best-selling audio CDs, Boost Your Income: 3 Spiritual Strategies for Success, to increase your own communication and collaboration with others. Those principles make a difference in my life and remind me that while Thought Tools currently goes out to over 30,000 subscribers, each and every one of you relates to it in your own inimitable fashion.

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