There are the kids who drive you insane with their inability to behave rationally or follow anything even remotely like an instruction, who can render you speechless by an act of kindness or a funny joke, which makes you forgive them all of their misdemeanours instantly. The flip side of that is the reliable, conscientious kid who, without warning, demonstrates a flash of defiance which catches you totally unawares. These are the contradictions that make people human and interesting.
I remember the old show, Mr and Mrs from the 1970s, where husbands and wives had to answer questions designed to demonstrate how well they knew each other. The appeal of the show lay in the fact that most couples would get the majority of questions wrong and the audience would sit in judgement, tutting and shaking their heads at the seeming lack of communication between the competing couple. But why the hell would you know what your spouse, or anybody else for that matter, might do in any given situation. The truth is I barely know what I am likely to do myself.
People trot out tired old clichés like, “I know him inside out,” or “I know her better than she knows herself.” What rot! I would hazard a guess that the person who they think they know has an inner life that they know nothing about and thank God for that. Who wants to be dissected and analysed and declared the finished article? Surely we are all growing and changing every minute of the day.
There are those who like to sit in judgement of others, so certain that their world is fixed and definite but it’s all just an illusion, we are all on shifting sands. The couples who judge others for having affairs, in the absolute certainty that neither they or their partner ever would, or the parents who are adamant that their child would never have a moment of madness, like the one who has just been caught committing some crime or other, need to hope that fate doesn’t decide to throw a curveball their way.
I can’t claim to be all holier than thou, like the wise old monk from Kung Fu, because I am the most intolerant person possibly in all of creation. However, I can’t find it in myself to judge other people for their ridiculous behaviour, no matter how much it may irritate me, because my own actions are so often irrational and ill-judged. I have lost count of the times I have inadvertently caused chaos with a decision that seemed right at the time but in hindsight turned out to be monumentally disastrous. While we are at it, if I am being totally honest, I don’t think we even really learn from our mistakes. How can we when life is ever changing and no two sets of circumstances are ever alike anyway?
My favourite saying, probably because it is so apt, is, “There but for the grace of God go I.” There aren’t that many blunders other people have made, where I haven’t thought had I been in their place chances are I would have either made the same error of judgement or one equally as damning. In some ways, I never like people so much as when they are blundering through life being human with all of the flaws and frailties that come with the deal. It’s a reminder that we are all the same and nobody really has a clue how to navigate life successfully. If you do get through it all unscathed, chances are it’s by luck rather than skill.