The subject matter was a three word “punch line” I came up with to best simplify a phrase I have grown to live by; “Seek first to understand, before being understood” amongst many other phrases such as this famous one from Jesus Christ “Judge not, lest ye be Judged”. I had first stumbled unto this phrase about seeking to understand while reading Stephen Covey’s Seven habits of highly effective people book and it stood out amongst the plethora of great writing and advice from him. This phrase stood as a rather poignant foundation to my next set of innate quotes, both of which can be found in the “babse who?” page of this website. What are they you might wonder? The first of it is; “Anything Can be Justified.” and the second; “Life is not about rights or wrongs but actions and consequences of those actions.” With the premise set, I’d love to take you to the world of TLL.
What is TLL? TLL is analogous to a litmus test in chemistry. Like with any desire to ascertain the nature of a chemical substance, one must take a litmus test to better understand what it is, this way you can determine if it is useful, irrelevant or might need to be archived to be referred to on a later day. If it is acidic, you get a certain result from the litmus paper (a color change) and you know to use this substance for specific things. If it basic, you get a different response and so on. It is that simple. Now applying this to humanity might be straight forward for many, complex for most. This is where TLL comes into play.
Tolerate – Recognize that people are not the same
Think about it. Have you ever asked yourself the depth of that phrase “put yourself in their shoes”. We are all unique individuals, even identical twins have inherent differences that could’ve resulted from external socio-economic stimuli. Series of random events. You name it. That a strong believer in the Christian faith has a problem with homosexuality doesn’t make them wrong or right. It just places the onus on you to understand why they think the way they do. When you pick up the book they believe and it states it pretty clear that homosexuality is wrong, you understand their viewpoint. Of course, one must be willing to tolerate such a reality or in other words settle down and be willing to listen to a varying opinion about whatever issue they seem to differ on.
Listen – Seek first to understand, before being understood
This embodies the idea of seeking first to understand, before being understood. Your willingness to put yourself in ones shoes should also imply that you are ready to see through their glasses of life. This particular section of my TLL test I believe becomes relatively easy should one be willing to tolerate a new school of thought/idea/suggestion. Once you open yourself and are willing to tolerate something new without throwing in your personal biases or coming in with an intention of being skeptical and intending to kill the messenger before even getting the message, the message just might make sense. It is then you are actually listening. I’ve always believed that the average human’s desire to recognize their viewpoint as the right one is the underlying issue we have. It might be right when we consider all the factors that have influenced your conclusion. It might be wrong in another man’s eyes. What gives? Seek first to understand that new perspective. Should you opt to discard it because it doesn’t bode well with your doctrines and beliefs? That is for you to decide but you owe it to yourself to recognize that all of humanity is inherently different on an individual level and as such you should be ready to get a barrage of new thoughts and ideas. Listen.
Learn – Anything Can be Justified
Arguably one of my most controversial phrases. “Anything can be justified”. I get asked two questions when I tell people I am a strong believer in this phrase; “So are you saying rape can be justified” or “You live in Colorado, do you mean you can justify the Cinema shootings?”. I usually respond with what I consider a reality; individualism. I might not justify killing or rape but the guys that performed such an action could’ve. I might never know. Such actions are a build up. I honestly believe that you’d have to think real hard to perform such, whether it was for some thrill like with the Cinema Shooting or you are doing it for “God and Country” like many have done in war.
You find your justification. How does this tie into learning? You have to learn from every experience, whether good or bad. If I may use the famous phrase “Every disappointment is a blessing”. Even if that situation didn’t affect you directly, one must always find that diamond in the rough in every situation and learn. To come full circle, you see someone is presenting you with a new idea or you stumble onto one, you tolerate the fact that it is novel to you, you listen and understand that view point, and you learn from it. Learning in my book is best phrased by Jean-Luc Godard;
It is not where you take things from- it’s where you take them to.
Folks in the Christian faith would liken this to wisdom; an application of knowledge. Learning in this case is not just acquiring knowledge and understanding of the subject, it is having it in your arsenal ready to be applied to fresh situations life throws at you. Although I had only come up with this whole TLL mumbo jumbo about two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of listening to a presentation titled “The Narrative” at the Energy Africa Conference I had previously written about. This presentation in my opinion encompasses this concept of TLL.
The Narrative was a presentation by an employee of Spatial Terra (Spacialterra.com) who was sent in by the US military to develop a more effective way of communicating with citizens of war torn Afghanistan after the initial wave of the war on terror. It was a detailed description of how one must understand the workings of Afghanistan vs the western way of thinking. In his findings, he recognized that overfunding local people did more harm than good in addition to the fact that fast forwarding growth was a bad thing. To explain this idea, it was learnt that the people were more trust and tradition based than they were influenced by the capitalist ideologies of the west.
In an example he gave, the villagers failed to build a road that was fully funded by the US government. Not because the money wasn’t there but because traditionally, there was a feud with adjacent villages and there was a need to sit, go back through history, iron out differences and then slowly come to terms with championing the benefits of a road through the villages. Similarly, the example of suspected terrorists having relative freedom to do whatever because of their historical ties with their communities regardless of how to the west, it makes no sense for one to embrace such individuals. The west sees the future, most other cultures see the past. If you are not willing to tolerate, listen and learn these truths, little can be done to achieve success.
How did the guys from Spatial Terra apply [learn] from tolerating and listening? They were able to adapt new technologies and general conventional knowledge with the strong cultural ties of the people to deliver their messages. They created what they called “Guerrilla Theater” where they used youth (it is commonplace that youths are vibrant and energetic) and technology to reach a broad audience faster. Technology flattened communication and emphasis on local stories helped build organic communication bridging. They created systems that were only relevant to the local environment and developed an understanding of local narratives through end-users. In an example of a message of piece, a known Chief’s son was used to create a short movie that spoke about culture and how the culture can instigate that change.
You can learn more about what Spatial Terra does on their official website.