The other day, I am teaching about writing a profile of a person, and we come across a profile of Albeto Gonzales which starts (paraphrasing), “Alberto Gonzales is a man that George Bush doesn’t like to stray too far from his side.”
So I asked a young man in class what that sentence told him. In *my* mind, it meant that Gonazales was a valuable man to the President, someone whose judgement he trusted and often wanted.
But to this 14 year old, it meant that Gonazlaes was “Someone the President didn’t want to wander off because he wasn’t sure what he woud do and he didn’t want him to get into, or cause, any trouble.”
Which, in the final analysis, could be exactly right.
The short-term lesson was, of course, about how our life’s experience shapes what we see around us, and how difficult it can be to get out of that viewpoint. I would never have read that kind of meaning into the sentence, and I’m pretty sure the student would not have read what I had seen.
Of course, this is the whole reason behind diversity etc., but what I really enjoyed in that moment was how it just blew my assumptions away. I assumed that the meaning would be obvious, and when the student came up with another one, I was surprised.
I like to think of our assumptions as suction cups that stick us to the walls of our life’s patterns. Sometimes it is a good thing to be grounded in this way – otherwise we’d be forever drifting (or falling). And sometimes it feels really good to have one ripped off for you, so that you can examine it and maybe put it back down, this time a little more gently – thus allowing your ascent to proceed with a little less effort.