I was once in a situation where everyone at a meeting kept talking about how upset they were about the fact that they were self-judging themselves so harshly. There’s a lot of hubbub around dropping your judgements of others as well. That it creates a friction, a mental state that keeps you spinning down a funnel of negativity. That the end result is continued unhappiness. What if those snap judgements, those prepared labels and sneers come from the same place where curiosity lies?
When I start to write a new monologue the thing that inspires me most are the eccentricities of others but mostly it is the aspects of people that irritate me most. Through the lense of becoming them, writing as the person who I project upon I at once can lay my judgements out on the table as well as develop a sharpened empathy for those I don’t understand as well as I’d like to.
I was just in a cafe getting a bagel. There’s always a ton of kids there. This little girl, probably about four was just staring at me while I looked at the menu. I glanced at her a couple times. She had no problem staring me down, wondering who I was, trying to figure me out. It’s what kids do. They are naturally curious, taking in their environment, being completely engaged. As sponges they are consistently fascinated and they are also slowly learning emotional learning curves, how certain behaviors generate praise or punishment.
As soon as we learn how to distrust, tell our first lie and get away with it, we start to play with how to bend the rules to suit our needs. We begin to notice this in others and wonder who is a friend and a who is foe. We do this instantaneously. We’re animals first and foremost.
I was at another cafe in town recently and saw this guy around fifty hanging out with this other guy in his twenties. The older guy was scanning the room at women and giving his running commentary to the younger guy who was obviously slightly embarrassed by the conversation.
Even before I started to hear this guy talk, as I sat down at a community table with my laptop, I glanced over at him and immediately thought “I fucking hate that guy.” Something about him was slimy, full of fakeness, transparently assholic. My initial reaction was then cemented by his loud enough to hear whispers. Not like I don’t appreciate the female form, I just try to be a little more subtle for Christ’s sake.
Does this mean that this guy is what I initially judged him to be. Not necessarily. He could also be an incredibly loving single dad, a revered boss at work, a really thoughtful son. He could be all those things and all I get to see is a complete douche. Sometimes I’m in the mood for people like this. I’ll spend the next 15 minutes writing down everything they say for possible inclusion or inspiration for a show but this particular guy, as soon as I heard him talk made me nauseous.
It wasn’t even what he was talking about but how. There was a lasciviousness in his demeanor, a king-of-the-castle quality that made him disgusting. It would have made me quite happy if any woman in the cafe who he was lewdly speaking about would just go up and kick him in the balls.
If I had been a little kid gawking at him I would probably have had a similar, yet less informed reaction. “That guy’s a meany.”, I would think. That first impression, that initial story one creates about someone else can both serve and protect us as well as create distances between ourselves and others when we may be too harsh in our first assessment. So the trick is staying curious as much as we can. We are going to continually judge others and ourselves for the whole of our lives. It’s really not that big of a deal. Getting down on yourself for judging another person is useless. The thing you can do is go “Huh… wow, I really think that person is a piece of shit. I wonder why.”
By going a little further into the why, by deconstructing the initial judgement you can learn a lot about your view on the world and how you can use that in a creative context. People are super weird and full of interesting details. Some are dangerous, some are lovely but we all tend to be a mixed bag. If you remember that you are just as capable of being a complete fuckhead like anyone else you can shrug your shoulders when you make a snap judgements rather than getting all down on yourself.
Being critically curious is way ok just don’t judge me 😉