I like trashy television shows.
There. I said it out loud for all the world to see.
Oh and when I say trashy, I mean REALLY trashy. I’m talking Real Housewives, Maury paternity episodes, Bad Girls Club trashy. The bottom of the barrel in mindless crud. (I do draw the line at Jerry Springer because I have some standards. Cough cough…ahem.) And over the years, while my t.v. habits have devolved further and further, I’ve gotten no end of shit from some well meaning friends.
Sometimes they find it humorous and shake their heads. They know I’m a woman of quirky (and sometimes lowbrow) tastes and they get it. But on occasion, I get some flak that has a tone that reeks of something else: intellectual snobbery.
The other night I was prepared to settle in to watch the season premiere of “Big Ang”. I had been eagerly anticipating this evening of nonsense and plastic surgery monstrosities with some snacks and a bottle of Mike’s Hard Lemonade nearby for good measure. But I wasn’t going to be alone for my guilty pleasure because a few friends dropped by – along with someone I didn’t know very well. And apparently, he was none too pleased with my television tastes.
He started making some disparaging remarks about reality t.v. and the people who watch it (and apparently he is one of those people who don’t watch television and prefers movies – because that is somehow “better” or more intellectual). I found myself on the defense and it was beginning to ruin my fun. At one point I had said that I liked these shows because I enjoy people watching – and he said “then go to a cafe” with the most condescending tone he could muster.
I was angry at his disrespect but I also found myself feeling something else: shame for watching such a classless and mindless show.
Who was he to judge my intelligence by the shows I watched? Does mindless entertainment really make me a shallow and less cultured person? Where did he get off judging me based on one thing when there are many parts to my personality?
Perhaps if he took a moment to realize how bad he made me feel, he might have chosen different words. Or if he took some time to analyze why I enjoyed this type of “entertainment” he may have learned something about my makeup (as a child, there was nothing I enjoyed more than t.v. night with the family – Mom would make some pizza rolls and we’d watch Happy Days or Shock Theatre together, events I remember with great fondness).
It’s very easy to fall into the superiority trap. Judging others by their preferences, appearance, circumstances, education (or lack thereof), status, etc is something we all do from time to time. The “better than” mindset assures us that we are doing something right with our lives or that we are somehow more clever or lucky for not “ending up like that”.
I’m guilty of that type of thinking on plenty of occasions – only to be surprised when I found out that my assumptions were wrong.
For example, my husband and I have been going to San Francisco for many years because his business partner lives there. We started running into a homeless man named Zeus on occasion. I remember the first time I saw him, drunk and unkempt, arguing with a few other guys. I recoiled and hastily walked past him, partly because I didn’t want to get in the middle of a scuffle and partly because he seemed…well, crazy.
But my husband saw something there beyond the ranting and started a conversation – and then handed him some money. I asked him why and he really didn’t have an explanation – he just wanted to get to know him. Big lesson for me. I was so busy judging the exterior that I didn’t see the person underneath.
Over the years, my husband became friends with Zeus. He was indeed a little crazy but he was also deeply intelligent, metaphysically inclined and somewhat of a poet. We would seek him out every time we visited San Francisco until one day, he disappeared. His buddies weren’t sure if he was dead or in jail. To this day, we have no idea what happened to him but we continue to search whenever we are visiting.
Many people would probably walk past him just like I initially did. They would see the drunkenness, the dirty clothing, the insane tirades and assume he was some criminal nut job that was spoiling the look and safety of the neighborhood. They would walk by and think “thank god that’s not me” instead of “there but for the grace of God go I”.
And they’d go home to their warm house with their loving families and feel happy that they are “doing well” and “made better choices” than him. They may not see the man he once was or the beautiful mind that still exists underneath the “bum exterior”. And they may not understand how their indifference or judgment made him feel. He may have felt shame for his circumstances – or maybe he didn’t care. I’ll never know because I probably won’t see him again (it’s been years now since we ran into him).
The problem with thinking we are better than others (for whatever reason) is that we end up creating separation and pain. We put people in compartments, label them, and then write them off forever. This lends to a false illusion about “those people” and about our own “status”. It also creates a feeling of worthlessness for the one being judged, which is something no one should ever be made to feel.
Whenever you find yourself feeling “better than” (or “less than” for that matter) for any reason, a good way to shift your mindset is by following this simple advice from spiritual guru Ram Dass: “Treat everyone you meet like God in drag.”
If you begin to see the divinity within rather than the outward appearance, you may find that ultimately we are all the same – no better, no worse. Just different experiences, abilities, exteriors, reactions, opinions, tastes and circumstances in different human suits.
“You kids should thank your mother. Now that she’s a better person, we can see how awful we really are.” — Homer Simpson
“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.” ~ Paulo Coelho
© Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady 2012
The tarot cards I associate with judging or superiority are: Judgment, 6 of Pentacles, 5 of Swords. What are your thoughts?