I Am the Center of the Universe

Saturday, August 20, 2016


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"How hungrily we read about ourselves!"
Gore Vidal  

Have you seen Jim Carrey's 'The Truman Show'? The movie depicts his life as a part of a live television show where he is put under a sempiternal watch since his birth. His quaint town is a widespread studio set and the townsmen are all Hollywood actors, even his wife is a paid actor. Akin to the concept of the Big Brother Show, the only difference is that the character here is incognizant of his situation. However, the unwitting Jim Carrey does ultimately find out the truth. 

Does life feel like a movie to you, at times? As if we are staging something, somebody is watching us, and particularly 'me', being the center of the movie - the protagonist. Can you relate to this? I think it's only natural; our brains are wired to think this way. We feel like we are the ultimate point – the center of this humungous system. And that everything needs to be analyzed and viewed from our narrow perspective; that being the only right way of perceiving things (we think!). 

From the time we are astir in the morning until we go to bed at night, we constantly run a commentary in our head. The focus of the commentary is 'our story, from our perspective'. Whatever we see happening, whatever we perceive, the central point of the narrative is always a single person - ourselves. 

While examining a situation or trying to fix a puzzle of any 'mystery', I see everything from the eyes of me - I am the center of the universe for myself, very much like you are for yourself. When we think how somebody is ill-treating us, we seldom ever consider their slant – we are always narrating our story. I’m at the center of this movie much like the character of Jim Carrey. It’s an ongoing story about my life and everything around me, with me at the center. In short, it's all about me (as if)! 

When we make ourselves the center of the universe, we often miss out on the point how others are a center of theirs. And here's when our gremlin comes to play!! Imagine someone being wicked rude to you; you interpret their actions according to the way they relate to you. Are their actions really about you? Are you the center of the universe for others? No, you are NOT! Maybe they are simply up against the wall. Their actions or reactions are totally about them because they are the center of their own stories. Interpreting their self-centered actions using the lens of our self-centered view makes their actions difficult to catch on to and we end up hurt and rankled.

Imagine your reaction when somebody passes a remark at you - a natural reaction is to defend yourself against the 'attack' and clear the air of 'bad impression' in the attempt to score points for 'goodness'. We feel an instinctive need to defend ourselves and stay on guard. In doing so, we are passing the buck and failing to understand that this interpretation is just a self-centered way of perceiving things. Also, imagine a reverse situation, where you attack somebody and they are on the defensive side. We are too quick to dismiss their concerns!

When somebody is mean or rude to us, we seldom ever ask ourselves what we have done to bring about the behavior. Instead, we start assuming how the other person is being unreasonable. We readily judge others and forgive ourselves. Why can’t this be overturned? Be more judgmental about your own actions, if you go astray and be more forgiving toward others if they ever do you wrong. If I'm rude to a friend, in my mind, I would take it as a pretext for being 'moody' that day. If she is ever rude to me, I would earnestly deduce that she is just showing her true colors. Every mind is fighting a battle of its own, not everything that is happening around is about us! Keeping ourselves at the center of the universe chokes healthy communication and inhibits empathy, making us incapable to discern right from wrong. 

Let's be more mindful of the stories we tell ourselves. Also, be aware that by putting yourself at the center, you're actually occluding the other person's chance of getting their viewpoint through. Let's just remove ourselves from the center of every story (or most, crucial stories).It will ease us, and shift our focus on the other person, opening the way to compassion, love, peace, deeper friendships and better understandings. By saying this, I do not mean we should completely remove ourselves from the stories (that's nearly impossible); but let's not put ourselves in the center! 

The universe is much more than just about ‘you’. Try to unseat yourself from the center, and endeavor to restore understanding and empathy. Here is to recasting the protagonists of our stories and being more heedful of others’ situations!

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Amna's Goodreads Bookshelf

To Kill a Mockingbird
Animal Farm
Of Mice and Men
The Alchemist
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Romeo and Juliet
Lord of the Flies
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Odyssey
A Tale of Two Cities
Frankenstein
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale
Les Misérables
Eat, Pray, Love
The Poisonwood Bible
The Joy Luck Club
Middlesex
The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Lolita
Under the Tuscan Sun


Amna Tariq Shah's favorite books »