Storytelling and the Mind's Eye Picasso

"Our eyes are basically a window from which we view the world. The collection of our experiences create the back story with which we define what it is we're seeing, feeling, and interacting with at any given moment."

I wish I made that up but I didn't. The concept was brought up during a class discussion back in the day and was apparently profound enough to stick in my head this long. The statement is not all that accurate though.

Here's another attempt:
"Our eyes are basically a peephole through which we view the world. The collection of our direct experiences and the narratives we've been offered by the people around us create the back story with which we define what it is we're seeing, feeling, and interacting with at any given moment."

From a window to a peephole is better but I'm still not too excited about it. Sounds kinda like a stripclub peephole too with booty bouncing on the other side. It doesn't quite express the extent to which, whether we accept it or not, we're shortsighted about the world either.

So here's the EXCLUSIVE remix to the remix:
"Our eyes are basically a pinhole (damn, that's tiny right?) through which we view the world. Everything we're able to see through this tiny hole is initially colorless and blurry. The collection of our direct experiences and the narratives we've been offered by the people around us create the back story with which we're able to color in little by little and bring focus to what it is we're seeing, feeling, and interacting with at any given moment."

Wow. That's a lotta words. Here's the cliffnotes version:
"We decide how to define and take action on things around us based on what we have personally experienced and when we're inexperienced at something, we rely on the stories we've been told about the something."

I am constantly thinking about this simple idea because it makes so much sense. A seemingly illogical action taken by someone around us, is perfectly logical to them based on their experience. Also, people around me have been through all sorts of interesting shit. Maybe I could learn something from them!

Marinating on this idea has made me realize that we all interact with the world with a sort of personal tunnel vision based on our preconceived notions. The readily available cure? Listening to people and allowing them to color and bring focus (for better or worse) to an otherwise drab landscape.

1) First in Flight:
I've been to Bachpe Airport (near Mangalore, India) enough times to know that it's terribly small. Small enough to ask passengers to step directly onto the tarmac when landing. During lunch with an elderly relative, we began talking about his childhood. He smiled and said, "I remember the day that Bachpe airport first opened. Nehru was to be the first passenger on the first flight landing at the airport. I took three or four buses and a few boats to get there from Udupi. I didn't even make it on time but I do remember one thing clearly: There were a few car accidents because everyone was staring up at the sky. People had never seen a plane before!"

He went from never seeing a plane to reading the news on the internet everyday today.

Under the Covers:
I got to know a girl a while back that I found quite amazing. She was cute, had a great personality, and a great sense of humor. My favorite thing to talk with her about was poetry. She had this passion for poetry that made me want to sit and really contemplate what the writer was trying to say.

She danced in college too. I think she was in one of those cultural shows. She talked about her friends a lot. She spent her free time running and biking around town.

She never seemed to let any guys get close though. I never really understood and kinda wrote her off as a hater. In reality through, she had been sexually abused by a family friend when she was in high school. That experience had altered her view on so much. Continual self image issues and guilt issues over the things that happened. She seemed to feel like it was her fault. It affected everything she tried to do. I hope she's doing really well today. She's pretty awesome.

3) Table for Two:
"We'll seat him outside," one of my relatives said from deep inside her house. She was referring to the Muslim driver that had brought my family to her house. In this rather turbulent town in Kerala, Muslims and lower caste people are not invited into homes. "Then, you can seat me outside too," was my dad's response, who then ate dinner with the driver on the front porch.

Taqueria Therapy:
It's no secret that I love taquerias. In the two years I lived in Chicago, I hit up my neighborhood taqueria hundreds of times. To fall in love with a taqueria, it not only needs pretty damn good food but it needs to have personality. Guerzo, the middle-aged, Mexican owner of this spot is what sold me. Over the years, he's seen me in more emotional and mental states than probably anyone else in Chicago. Rough days at work. Life getting me down. Late night drunk eats. I slowly got to know Guerzo, his son and even met his granddaughter. I had never really sat down with him though and asked talked to him about his life.

It happened to be a really slow night on one of my last nights in Chicago. I told Guerzo to sit down with me while I ate and I told him about my plan to move to Bangalore. I told him about the business opportunity and lifelong dream. I also told him how I felt responsible to stay connected to my family in India (and the small towns we're from). Something resonated with him. I asked him if he was worried about his son losing touch with Mexico. Guerzo flashed his usual half smile, half "I'm deep in thought" expression. He began describing the town he grew up in. It was a tiny town just outside of Mexico City.

Hearing the cultural differences between Mexico City and his town reminded me so much of the contrast between Bangalore and our town. If I gave you a written description of the town my family's from and the town Guerzo is from and removed language differences, I think you'd have a hard time telling them apart.

5) Truth Fed Beef:
"Sai Baba of Shirdi (Unknown - October 15, 1918), also known as Shirdi Sai Baba, was an Indian guru and yogi who is regarded by his followers as an incarnation of God. Some of his Hindu devotees believe that he was an incarnation of Shiva or Dattatreya."

I've seen Shirdi Sai Baba's photo up in so many Indian homes. I have no idea about his history or what it is he did. I do know that people worship him like a God. You know what I've never heard about him though?! That's he was a practicing Hindu and Muslim!!

"In his life and teachings he tried to embrace and reconcile both faiths: Sai Baba lived in a mosque, was buried in a Hindu temple, embraced Hindu and Muslim practices, and taught using words and figures that drew from both traditions."

Eat it Hindu and Muslim extremists!

The last two days I've heard stories about dealing with an alcoholic dad, growing up in a biracial family, hiding relationships from your conservative parents, communication mishaps with a girlfriend, an immigrant's first impressions of America, and how scary typhoid used to be. All stories from friends I was kickin' it with and people around me.

We're all inherently different. Hearing the differences, as wacky as it sounds, helps us understand the people around us and understand ourselves better. It takes a conscious effort to not just accept what we're hearing as truth but to marinate on experiences and stories and decide for ourselves how the story applies to our lives.

Once in a while though our tiny pinhole viewers actually overlap. We find familiarity in the most unlikely person or thing. I think that's what humanity is: the common threads that are always there but often take a little deeper digging to uncover. Digging past the iphones, the ipods, the twitter, the facebook status messages. Past the makeup, the jewelry, and stunner shades. Past the Hills, the Kardashians, and reality TV. Only essentials are left. We're left with me and you, trying to understand each other through tiny pinholes with our experiences and stories.

So here's a challenge. What if we spent a day or even a week consciously trying to find the overlap of the pinholes instead of the obvious differences?

I'll be around for a month or so before I roll to the Motherland and hope to be writing more often. Thanks for all the love! Please feel free to comment on this post with your own experiences or short stories you've heard.