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I have been wondering if it is possible to see the world as it is without the lens of my identity, expectations, experiences. Everything I observe is associated with what I know, what I expect, what I feel. The world becomes my experience and not what it is.

And I know that first impressions kept my previous generations alive long enough for me to be born. But I want the first impression not to be the only opinion, even not to exist at all in some situations.

If any sign of danger appears, it is better to run, even if you have any doubts. But the world today is different and more complicated than the one in the past. Couldn't my reaction be either? I see a version of the world that is not real, and I stick with this version.

Imagining that I think I know something about someone I just met, just because of the color of his clothes. It limits me to understanding who is really in front of me. It is the smell of food that keeps me from feeling the actual taste. It's the look of a new dish that keeps me from thinking it might be tasteful. It is my limiting beliefs that hold me from trying because I find it impossible.

Last year, when I decided to do different things, what I hear most is people saying that they could never do the same. That my situation is more comfortable now and always has been. Why can I only see these limitations when others are using it as an excuse? Why is it so hard to see in me?

A person holding glasses

The karaoke

My last weekend was great. A friend I like a lot was celebrating a new job position and decided to call other friends and me to celebrate together. We went to a bar, and then one of us came up with the idea of singing in a karaoke. Awesome!

It was late, and by the time we got there, we didn't find an available table for us to sit. We could go in, but we would have to stand. Not sitting wasn't a problem for anyone, but people started to moan because if we didn't have a table, we couldn't sing either.

The girl at the doorway said nothing about not singing if you must stand. Furthermore, the person who came to this conclusion had never been in karaoke before. To my surprise, the other guys were agreeing and deciding to leave. The group was already talking about other options.

I confirmed with the girl at the entrance that one thing had nothing to do with the other. When I told my friends that we could sing, everyone was happy and decided to come in. Not only did we sing, but as soon as we entered, a table became available, and we ended up sitting.

I couldn't help wondering how many times I didn't do something because I was sure about something that only existed in my head. You know when we don't ask because we're confident we'll hear a no? In the case of karaoke, we were about to leave an excellent place.

The Flat Earth

Today a lot of people laugh at the Flat-Earthers. I'm a telecommunications engineer, which gives me a little more grounding than the average person on the glove version. Equipment from decades ago already explored the curvature of the earth to transmit signals. You know when weak AM radio signals reach remote places, but not the FM? The globe helps a little bit.

However, I cannot say that I am sure that the earth is round. I cannot say that I have seen with my own eyes the shape of the globe. Even if you had, could you say it's 100% right because of that? Was it a dream? An illusion? Does my perception define what is real, and would I be willing to give my life for it? Someone more knowledgeable may even say that my example of AM signals is ridiculous, just for starters.

I also have no scientific knowledge to refute many of the arguments of the Flat-Earthers. For some are based on hypotheses that end up supporting some seemingly absurd cases. For example, it is possible to assume that the sun is much smaller than it is, that the earth is flat, and to calculate the trajectory of our star based on these two hypotheses.

Of course, it's fun to see people be sure about the flat theory, but the behavior is not as strange as it sounds. For generations, we have defended ideas that today are considered entirely absurd. Everyone once argued that the earth was flat, and most of us are no different from these people. We will undoubtedly see in the future that we believe in things that are not reality.

Traveling made me understand my nearsighted vision better

Man wearing a backpack and looking to an amazing sight

This judging others or situations behavior based on my experience is most evident when I am abroad. I realize how much the place I was born, and the people I had contact with defined my manner today.

Someone who grows up in a culture where touch is not allowed between people does not experience a hug just as I do. It is a simple example. However, I do not fail to realize how many opportunities I miss, simply because my previous experiences were defining future ones.

We look at the world through the window that our family and culture has offered us. Smells and flavors are limited. We think accents are not different but weird. We look at people around us and find simple behaviors offensive.

A European who blows his nose at the lunch table is seen as rude by a Brazilian and not as someone different. A Brazilian who puts his hand in his back pocket can be considered at least bold for touching himself in public. Depending on the culture, you can judge these things as right or wrong and not as a simple cultural act.

A story that has to do with culture and that I always tell is from a German friend. He said that hugging his mother for a long time as an adult made her cry like a child. Nothing was said, just a hug in a home that didn't have this habit. Does it seem possible or something too far away? It depends on where you were raised.

My presence was somehow annoying, but not as I expected

About a few months ago, I stayed in a hostel for a week. I was sure that two women that were sharing a room with me couldn't stand me. Every time I started a conversation, they seemed bored and avoided talking to me. They ended the dialogue very quickly.

The answers were evasive or even aggressive in my view. One thing I value is that people must be friendly, and I didn't know what I was doing to be so unpleasant. I just gave up and stopped interacting. I decided not to ask anything anymore because I was just annoying them.

On the last day, after drinking a few minutes before we left, one of them comes to talk to me and confesses to having liked me a lot since the day I arrived. But in her culture, the woman reacts coldly, especially when the woman is shy when interacting with a man. Her friend felt the same.

Should their rejection intrigue me and make me strive? I do not know.

And I will never know. With the little time that we had, the only thing that I said is that I felt the opposite. I had the feeling that my presence was not enjoyable. Like in the karaoke, now it was I that accepted something as truth. I should have asked what was going on. Maybe I could have seen the situation with other eyes and not felt rejected.

I'm not saying that knowing she was interested in me should make me correspond. I am not saying that the opportunity I missed was that we could be friends or even a couple. The opportunity I missed was to understand a little bit better a person a lot different from me. Someone I didn't understand, because I thought I already understood.

When my lenses fog up, or I'm forced not to wear glasses

Two kinds of situations generated the best memories of experiences that I could live the world more as it is. The first one I call blurry lenses because my judgment is more altered than usual. The second is when I say that I am forced not to wear glasses, which is when it is challenging to say no to a very different experience.

The blurry lens is simple. Usually, it happens after three or four shots of some alcohol. It is incredible how much less I judge myself and the world at this point, although I still stay quite functional. The need to evaluate the experience I am living and categorize into some group in my mind is far less.

These moments are as if I had a window of opportunity to live something more openly and even change my mind after the effect of alcohol. After the fourth dose, I believe it's only downhill, and it's just irresponsible to keep going. Therefore, I avoid it.

The second, which I call being forced not to wear glasses, is when I go after some experience that interests me a lot, but it will attract people different from the one I live with daily. An example was when I did a Wim Hof Method Workshop in São Paulo.

The people were the most varied, but no one there except a friend who went with me was someone who I would find in any other daily situation. I went further and decided to meet Wim Hof in person. I joined in a 7-day immersion with him in the Spain summer, and the people were even more diverse. One of the most enriching experiences I have ever had that has generated invaluable friends that I keep around until today.

And how will it be from now on?

It was after a two-hour telephone conversation with a friend I made in the latter situation that I came up with the idea of writing this text. In the old days, I would never have imagined keeping in touch with distant people, talking on the phone for more than five minutes, and meeting so many different people. But I am very grateful that this is the current situation in my life.

Since I don't want to stimulate alcohol consumption or drink more than I already do, I want to fill my life with a good deal of experience with different people. May I be forced to face my prejudices and wrong views of the world. I believe posting my texts can help me in this mission.

Maybe someday I can see the world and people as they are and not as I hope they are? I'm not so naive. The challenge will be daily, and I hope to be increasingly prepared to face it.

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Bruno Barros