Who Is Your “Everyone”?

“Who is your everyone? Chess masters scarcely surround themselves with motocross racers. Do you want aborigines at your birthday party? Or is that yak butter tea you are serving…. Each people know only its own squares in the weave, its wars and instruments and arts, and also perhaps the starry sky.”

In her essay, “This is the Life,” Annie Dillard eloquently writes about our limited worldviews. She is not passing judgment but rather stating that this is a natural and universal aspect of life. We live among and are drawn to others who share our interests and experiences. This creates the illusion of “this is what life is” and often presumes what we think it ought to be for others. Some call this: living in a bubble.

We don’t need to travel to faraway lands or cultures to realize that our worldview is limited. Too often we can look at our neighboring town or the person sitting next to us on the subway. We see de facto segregation in our lives everywhere—in schools, in our workforce, in our politics. When we see someone beyond our weave, we are prone to snap judgments and compare their experience to ours. Instead of accepting that right now this is their weave. And much like ours, their fabric has points of beauty and vulnerability.

Recently PBS published a “bubble quiz” from author Charles Murray who contends that the upper class American has lost touch with the average American.

I encourage you to take the quiz here.

After you’re done, you’ll get a “bubble score,” which in and of itself is interesting.

Beyond this, ask yourself what kind of reactions or judgments you made while answering these questions. What images popped into your mind? Did you appreciate any aspect of the “weave” intimated by these questions?

Going back to Dillard’s essay, she doesn’t offer any panacea for expanding our limited worldviews — we are who we are. But she does prod us to appreciate both the diversity of lived experiences in the world, and the fact that each of us will still live and die under the same “starry sky.”

With this realization, she ends by asking: “Then what?”

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