Have you ever heard to story of a room full of blind men and the elephant? The story has South Asian roots.
So this elephant is supposedly in the middle of the room and a bunch of blind people were asked to figure out what it is. So one grabs his ears, feels the thin skinny flaps and declares it is like a fan. Another grabbed the elephant by the tail and says it is like a stick. The next grabs the trunk and declares it’s a snake. The next grabs his legs and decides it is like a pillar and the one after him feels his side and compares it to a wall.
If you Google it, you will find many versions of the story.
But the point is, every event we experience in life, all the people we meet, the relationships we have, everything is filtered by our perceptions of not only what we were able to physically see but how we relate to it with our knowledge of past experiences. Just like the story, none of the blind men are lying, but none of them are correct either. A person who isn’t blind has a very different view of what an elephant or his reality is.
For instance, a person who has never been out side the U.S. lives in a reality where poverty is defined by trailer park, rusty old car, labor job and food stamps. For an African or an Asian, poverty is barefoot, working in rags under a scorching sun and still going home fearful for the next meal.
Recognizing our own bias is the first step in the feeling called empathy, the thought that my reality is limited to the scope of my life.