I used to believe that everything equaled out in the end. That at some point, everyone would get the same amount of opportunity or talent. I used to think that we were all special in enough ways to allow for everyone to have the same chance of success. I don’t believe that anymore.
I once was talking to a very good friend about our test scores over the phone. He told me about how good his math scores were. I saw that they were better than mine, and in my need to make everything even out, I proclaimed that I had very good english scores. As it turned out, I did have good scores. He just had better ones. In both English (which I cared a great deal about) and in Math (which I didn’t care all that much about) he was better. I couldn’t reconcile this disparity. I kept on looking for a silver lining, a way in which his life overall was worse than mine or that I could feel superior so that this defeat would hurt less. I still haven’t found a way to make those kinds of stings any less potent.
Instead, I now believe that instead of an equation with an a person on either side of the equal sign, it is most likely a greater than or less than sign. This is a crude judgement, but it is in fact a much more accurate representation of the way in which we experience all people. Somewhere within our heads, we do an estimation of greater than or less than. We look for links from one person or idea to another, but we are not looking for them to be the same. We are looking for ways to categorize, to prioritize and to put them into a hierarchy. We can’t help but be a part of this lopsided equation every moment.
And yet, it is hard to tell which side of the equation we are on at times or what is really being compared. I may be really good at getting my ideas across, but utterly fail in having revolutionary ideas in the first place. These things are not equal. One is greater than the other, but it depends on who is setting up the equation.
The point is:
The greater than or less than equation is a little agreement within ourselves to treat some things and people with more respect and attention than others. And in the interest of creating a more collaborative and sharing society, I believe we owe it to one another to state our equations as loudly as we possibly can. If all bias can be boiled down to an equation with a little arrow pointing one way or the other, we can actually identify what it is that moves us and what it is that we need help with. With that in mind, here are a few equations that I believe to be true.
My children > other people’s children
Open Source > Closed Source
Community > Isolation
Publishing > Notebooks
Notebooks > Not writing/drawing/reflecting
Independent > Corporate
Corporate > Undervalued
Revision > Final Draft
Trust > Suspicion
Hope > Tradition
Change > Success
Failure >= Success
Music >= Silence
Stress > Pressure
Lo-Fi > Hi-Def
Family > Career
There are lots more, but I do wonder what would happen if we all laid out our equations on the table and started talking about them. Would any of us change the directions of the arrows? Would we be able to generate our list of the most important things in our lives, our priorities of a lifetime rather than just of the moment. I feel as though that might be important.