ASSUMPTIONS create havoc. They destroy relationships. They ignore the space between speaking and hearing , where everything travels and is alive with energy and feeling. Inquiry before accusation opens territory for dialogue and deeper relationships. It is a pause button of invaluable kindness. Acting on assumptions, hearsay or events out of context are the cause for harm. The few minutes it takes clears the path for conversation, and also makes us aware of our own tendency to believe whatever arises from our own fearful thinking reactive mind factory. I have experienced this personally often. Whole careers, not to mention projects and community cohesion, can unravel by an assumption gone public. Media, driven by searching for a fast sound bite story that will grab readership, has replaced journalism and reflection. Adding to the already disconnected practice of mistaking digital communication with genuine communication it is an equation for desperation, imbalance, and violence. We have to do all we can to re -generate direct communication. A way of seeing outside of our own reactions and responses to becoming aware of others. Even looking at something fully outside ourselves can become a relief from self harming assumption that will have effect on others. This is an emergency.
A man who was considering making a donation to a project I mentor for adolescent girls in Haiti living in a camp four years after the earthquake, wrote to say he was reconsidering because one of the girls in a photo had a Louis Vuitton bag on her lap. I was startled at his assumption. But he probably has never really thought about the lives of these girls to assume they may have purchased an expensive French purse when they can barely afford to eat everything. I wrote back, “ Thank you for a chance to give you a bit of a glimpse in to their lives. They buy these things thrown out by Americans , supposedly donated, but sold. They are piled up on the streets and in the markets for pennies. It has more to do with our sense of waste then it does with their sense of fashion. For a young girl having something they think is normal and beautiful, strengthens them. I am sure she has never heard of or cares about Louis Vuitton. They feel so humiliated by living in the camp with little sanitation, hard to find water for drinking or being clean, no privacy and a constant risk of illness,despair and rape. Probably your friend doesn’t realize this. I actually once stopped on the street and bought a pair of shoes I could never afford in NY for $13 the high price for a non Haitian.
And this was a mild assumption.
There is a great wisdom story that I have written about before. A queen in Afghanistan could not recover from the grief of the loss of her first child. With time she grew more and more distressed. Until, she did not leave her rooms. The King
despaired. Doctors of every sort had no effect. He heard about a musician who was said to heal cripples, and transform sorrows. The young man, who played a wooden flute called Tula, was brought from his mountain village. He played every day in the chambers of the queens. In time, her grief was lessened and she returned to life. The King was grateful. And when she gave birth to a second child, he rewarded the flute player and planned to send him back to his village.
However, the queen requested that he remain to play for the child. The King agreed but the thought entered his mind that perhaps the child was not his, but the love child of the musician. This thought grew. It took on a life of immense proportions haunting the King. He began to create tests to see if his wife was in love with the young man. Beautiful women were brought before the flute player. His indifference convinced the King. He never inquired to discover that the young man was in love with a young woman in his village and betrothed in marriage. Finally he constructed the ultimate test.
The King had artisans create a gold mechanical bird covered with shining jewels. A lever caused a recorded song, similar to the sound of the flute, to be played. He placed a carpet on the ground and had his wife put the baby on the carpet. Then he placed the mechanical bird and the wooden flute beside him. At first for a moment, the child looked at the glittering object, but then he lifted up the flute. The King convinced lifted up his sword. The Queen realized in that moment what had occurred. She placed her hand on his arm and stopped him before he beheaded the flute player. Then she signaled the musician to play. His music calmed the King who slowly put down the sword and recognized his devastating mistake.