A Renaissance manuscript Latin translation of ...
A Renaissance manuscript Latin translation of The Republic
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I just finished reading Plato's The Republic. As I was finishing it, I happened to be sitting across from a kid on Frontrunner who was ALSO READING Plato's The Republic. This prompted him to start a conversation, in which he tried to either sympathize with women, or pick a fight with me. I couldn't tell. He said his favorite part of the book was where Plato advocated the education of women, but it was unfortunate that Plato also claimed they were inferior in every way. I just smiled and told him I was glad he was enjoying the book.

It's funny how strangers can bond over a book. There are forums online where strangers form relationships based on their mutual love of The Harry Potter series, LOTR, and The Twilight Series. Unfortunately, like clubs, political parties, sports teams and religions, it can also create a strong divide.

Some people get unbelievably pissed off when you don't like what they like or believe what they believe. This seems to be a case of intense egocentrismmy way of thinking is the only way of thinking. The obvious case is religion. We don't need to get into that, but child-rearing, book and movie preferencesthat's what baffles me.

Years ago, my neighbor asked me if I spanked my children. When I told her that instead, I used time out and other less physical methods, she coldly told me that she spanked her children and that was the only way to effectively discipline them. We never really spoke after that and she stopped letting her children play with my childrenlike they had the no-spanking disease she was afraid her children would catch. She had asked me a question, not because she really wanted to know the answer, but because she wanted me to confirm that she had made the right parenting decision.

I've been blacklisted for not loving crude humor comedies like Dumb and Dumber and Anchorman. I've been snark-eyed for electing not to read Fifty Shades of Grey or for not loving (or even liking) the Twilight Series.

This morning, I sat across from a 20-something, who was wearing yellow skinny jeans and a scarf. He was alternating between reading a novella and sleeping. Behind him sat a woman, almost completely covered in black cloth, her eyes barely peeking through the material as they scanned her laptop screen. Across from her sat another 20-something wearing a collared shirt and khakis, watching Super Bowl commercials on his iPhone. Behind him, and across from me, sat a woman in her 40s, wearing a bright floral dress, engrossed in a romance novel. I formed the fourth corner of we-come-from-different-places square in my hybrid outfit of office clothes, comfy leggings and scuffed-up boots for the commute, carefully navigating a much-loved copy of Graham Swift's Waterland. We all read or watched what we were reading or watching and got off the train when we were at the appropriate stop. Nothing terrible happened.

The point is, that it doesn't make sense to feel anger towards someone who didn't like Cormac McCarthy's The Road or Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games Series. Instead of immediately writing off people whose opinions and experiences differ from ours, it would make more sense to listen without judgment to their views. You can agree or not agree, but just maybe you'll expand your horizons a littleI don't mean change your mind even, just understand a different way of seeing the world.

Enter Shōgun by James ClavellEnglishman-meets-Japanese culture. The Englishman thinks the Japanese are barbarians for their tradition of seppuku and sexual diversity. The Japanese think the Englishman is a barbarian for his poor hygiene and food-preparation techniques. Ultimately (a thousand pages later) they come to a mutual understanding, and even respect for each other's culture. They come to understand that there is tradition and belief behind the "barbarism."

See what I did there? We're all just people who have been somewhere, trying to get somewhere with whatever tools and knowledge we have available.

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