Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Lived Experience

I don't want to be merely dismissive of the modern fondness for the term - which is what everyone says when they are being merely dismissive. It seems to be mostly on the lips of younger people who believe they are not being heard, and even oppressed. I have no doubt it just feelz true to them. I note in passing that a primary symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder is the belief that "If you don't agree with me you must not really, really be listening to me."  This can persist in the face of an amazing amount of obvious evidence to the contrary. They just can't see it. 

Yet let me offer a serious counter to that thought. If you have not had some responsibility for the life of another person, you don't have any real lived experience. That other person might be a spouse, a parent, a parish, employees you care about, a school or ministry, or very especially a child, but without that you do not have a life shared with the long history of interconnected humanity.  Weak ties with people who merely agree with you don't count.  Emphatically don't count. Unless what happens to some other person (perhaps in extremes some other entity or cause, but I grant that grudgingly) affects you as deeply as what happens to you yourself, you haven't a clue.  Let me pick an example conveniently: Are you a young high-status athlete or entertainer (especially male) who feels victimised because you 'n your friends can't just go and have a good time and don't get what you feel is proper respect from the police?  Care for your aging parent, or a child, or a spouse with some real problem and get back to me later, wouldja? Because you have no lived experience until you have shared in humanity that way.


james said...

There's still room for "lived experience" in more restricted domains--for instance to assure a newbie that the tedious aspects of the job are worth it and that there can be non-monetary rewards. But yes, critiquing the football plays when you've never held the ball or taken a hit--why should anyone listen?

Cranberry said...

It is hard to be charitable to the entitled.

You, I, we, anyone, can have many worldly goods and success, but lack the connections that limn life's forms.

In noodling about with our family's genealogy, primarily through Family Search, I've noticed that a great deal of the work is done by volunteers reconstructing their own family. That means that people without children can be left out.

They vanish from the record, as if they never existed.

Do the annoying entitled, without family or real friends, know that? I don't know. But they vanish from the longer record.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

It's an interesting tie-in to genealogy, as I have done a lot of the back-tracing in our family. Some lines immediately went to work that had already been done, by thorough people who recorded all siblings and children. I was never interested in anything but the steady growth of the tree going back to my direct ancestors. Occasionally there would be an interesting side-story, like the wastrel brother who married a niece of General John Stark and proceeded to spend through her inherited fortune before dying in the poor house. But yes, in such a line the childless would quickly become invisible to succeeding generations. I do have a cousin who keeps track of all those. It is the opposite of another chart we have in the house, of all the descendants of two of the immigrant ancestors, so we can find out how people are related to us and where they come from in the tree. My great aunt was the composer of that, as she kept track of her siblings and cousins and even many second cousins in her life, including some back in Sweden. It is ironic, I supposed, because as beloved as she was, she was unmarried and childless and will disappear pretty quickly when living memory of her has died out. She died in 1983, so that's not going to be 2-3 more decades. Because of the intensity of her involvement and the rescue of relatives she very much had "lived experience." Yet even as a young man I could tell she was an exception in that.