Steve Harvey opened his 2008 Stand Up Comedy Special, ‘Still Trippin’, with a story from his early career as a radio host. In one of his shows, he had Michael Clarke Duncan as his special guest. After congratulating Michael for his Oscar nomination on the movie The Green Mile he asked,”Tell us what’s next for Michael Clarke Duncan?” Michael replied, “I will be playing on the remake of the classic movie, The Planet of the Apes.”
Steve was baffled by his response. For a big black man to play a role of a monkey wasn’t only racist but, also derogatory for the black community. Not knowing what to say next, he called for a commercial break. He went to answer the telephone calls from listeners who told him to talk Michael out of the role.
Steve was ready to express what he thought and how he felt as he resumed the show. Derisively asking, “So tell us Mike, since you are going to do a remake of the classic movie The Planet of the Apes, how much are they paying you to be a monkey?” Michael replied, “Well… I don’t normally do this but since you asked, I’m going to make about 10 million.”
Steve Harvey was stupefied.
“For 4 million dollars, I’ll be the best damn monkey you ever saw! I’d be such a good ass monkey that black people will be ashamed of me!”
In an instant, Steve’s opinion flipped around its head. The once scorned decision of a black man playing the role of a monkey suddenly became enviable.
Isn’t life funny this way? One moment we are confident of our opinion and the next moment, we flip and take the other side. In an instant, our perceptions, feelings and even beliefs can change.
Six months ago, I believed that I would never drive a motorbike in my life. Not only is it too dangerous but, I have other options: walk, take the public transportation or drive a car. This was my truth at that time.
When my husband Nicole and I decided to move to Bali two months ago, my truth changed. I needed to learn how to drive a motorbike if I wanted the freedom to move around Bali. Now, I cannot imagine myself not driving a motorbike- the most convenient, accessible and economical way of getting to places.
What is true and untrue, good and bad are all relative to a person’s worldview- his perception.
For a Vegetarian, eating meat is unhealthy.
For a Hedonist, whatever causes pleasure is right.
For an Alcoholic, getting drunk is the cure to all his problems.
For me, truth is relative to a person’s world view.
“Sometimes, critics are people who do not see the world the same as you do.” -Bozoma Saint John
Without understanding that: truth (opinions, criticism, judgements, beliefs) is relative to a person’s world view, we will always find ourselves in conflict with others who have opposing truths, which causes negative feelings, misunderstandings and falling apart.
But once we start embracing this truth, we can replace our knee-jerk reaction of debating about who is right or who has the smarter argument, with that of understanding. Debates replaced with discourses, arguments replaced with questions and talking replaced with listening.
As the saying goes, “Wear the shoes of the other person.” Ask questions that will make you understand where he is coming from. What are his experiences? What is his story? What is the context? What is his background? Listen to what the person says. Observe what the situation shows. And maybe, you’ll end up laughing at yourself for the truth you once believed in.