Saturday, November 26, 2011

Appreciating Different Perspectives

From the floor...

Most of the problems between people result from the fact that they are not willing to listen to and consider anyone else's points of views except for their own. Everyone thinks that their way is the best way to go about things (otherwise they wouldn't do so of course!), and most of the times, people dismiss any other ideas that come their way. Yes, we are moving towards a global society where people are agreeing to disagree, but even then, there is an element of a feeling of superiority in one's own opinion. If we just stopped, and honestly listened to others, maybe we would see something that we didn't notice before. Instead of just 'tolerating', we would move towards 'understanding'.

I only realised that this year, I suppose. My usual approach is that if someone threatens my lifestyle, I tend to move away from them. But right now, I am trying to make use of all the perspectives I have been blessed with. I have a certain level of understanding of Islam, and I am trying to improve it. I have friends from different religious backgrounds, whose beliefs I used to dismiss in the past. But, lately, I am finding it interesting to just 'observe' how people's perspectives are shaped due to their religious beliefs. I haven't had too many atheist friends until this year, but now that I do, I am finding it interesting to observe theirs too. However, those friends are all from my neuroscience class, so their points of views are mostly only shaped by science. But, even within them, there are people that come from different cultural and family backgrounds, and its interesting to see the way those factors shape them. I am also starting to notice how people's perspectives change due to their career path. The people that I know that are studying in Social Sciences care much more about others than my friends from Science, who are mostly concerned about themselves and sort of live by 'survival of the fittest'. My lawyer friends always feel the need of arguing their case. People studying in economics/business never seem to enjoy spending money on experiences - and they are very, very careful about the way they spend it. 

I guess this approach does have its flaws. Its hard to know where to draw the line of 'understanding' and 'being influenced' by these thoughts. And of course, there are points of views that you would come across that are contradictory, so, automatically, you would make a judgement between them. And with all these, there's also the question of how to be assertive enough so that you can still hold ground to what you believe in (unless you're reconsidering) and be respectful. This, I think, brings out one wisdom of praying five times a day. When you make it compulsory for yourself to talk to God - the highest power without whom not a single leaf can move, the One that holds all power and at the same time is the most wise, knows you better than you know yourself, is the most merciful yet the perfect judge - it becomes easier for you to remember why you do the things you do. It provides an impetus for you to keep going, look at the big picture instead of getting confused by the details.

Also, studying in an all girls school my whole life (except for three years - kindergarten (when cooties were still real), year 5 & 6 (the giggly age)), I was never really exposed to guys. But now that I am, its also interesting to see their point of views and how its very, very different to the way that females think. For example, one of the guys was talking about how he sees women - the fact that even a very good friend can evoke sexual responses when she wears tight clothes. Exposed skin and visible figures immediately makes men think about sex. I read this article the other day, that said that its found that 'looking at images of women's bodies activates the part of men's brains associated with using power tools'. And I suppose the degree of exposure and the resulting stimulation varies across cultural backgrounds, depending on how much you are constantly exposed. But the bottom line is, men are truly less in control of their bodily responses. It would be interesting to see a study done on women though. However, I think women are generally more attracted to the way a person talks, and the way they use their words. This has only been a personal observation for a very long time. But I recently found out (from a little bit of Wiki research :P) that females have larger Wernicke's area and Brocka's area, which are the areas in the brain that allows you to form words and sentences coherently, comprehend them and other things associated with language. We also have larger auditory regions. Males have a larger area in the parietal lobe that visual and spatial information. So, we are wired to be more attracted to words and voices, while men are wired to be more attracted to physique. So, when people ask why Islam asks women to cover more parts of their body while it does not ask the same from men, they ask a stupid question. :P Of course, these findings were not possible to be discovered before neuroimaging began. The first method of neuroimaging was introduced in 1919, but it was a really dangerous process and didn't really provide much information. MRIs and CT scans only came in 1970s and 80s, which then made these observations possible. This really made me appreciate my hijab a little bit more than I have in the past. Its something that covers both exposed skin and conceals figure - the two things that set of the biological alarm in men. Of course, its not a one way street. Islam also prescribes men to lower their gaze and cover a certain extent in their body. And all the while, for both parties to know that God is fully aware of what they do and think at all times.

Of course there are instructions and suggestions throughout the Qur'an and Hadith that were scientifically proven to be beneficial. A quick google search of Qur'an and Science will tell you so. However, the purpose of the Quran is not to 'empirically' prove that God exists, the purpose of the Qur'an is to tell us of signs of God. It is more of a correlation proof rather than a causal proof. But when I come across things like this, it just reminds me more of the truth of the verses that tell us: "It may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know." (2:216) 


  1. F5 again, Sheikh! u got hooked up!

  2. what does the comment above mine mean anyway? - A