I’ve been reading, with great interest, the stories of a couple of really extreme life explorers recently. One, Chris McCandless, spent a couple of years tramping around the Western USA before heading into the Alaskan interior and surviving for sixteen weeks before, unfortunately, meeting his end.
Another, Daniel Suelo, is still very much alive having given up money some twenty years ago. He doesn’t earn money, spend money, save money, use money… opting instead to live in a Utah cave and eat whatever he can find either in nature or in the dumpsters of the local settlement.
When reading people’s opinions about these adventurers, I commonly come across phrases like “He is/was an idiot for doing that…”
And I realise something there and then (following on, really, from the “Judge not…” journal I posted recently).
No. McCandless was not an idiot for dying in the Alaskan wilderness. Not even for going there over-confident and under-prepared.
The commenter, yes, would be an idiot if they did those things because they are not McCandless and have their own values, their own desires, their own experiences and their own needs for self-fulfilment.
Likewise, Suelo isn’t a “bum / scrounger / idiot” for doing what he’s doing.
Again, if the commenter followed in his footsteps (inauthentically) then perhaps they would be all three of those things. Suelo’s intent is to live according to the principles of Christianity… live them by giving up worldly belongings, letting go of money and contributing to the world without any expectation in return.
However we judge others, I’ve come to realise, is simply a reflection of our own values, desires, insecurities…
One of my mentors has ten children and home-schools them. Crazy? Nope. It’s just what’s important to him. I would be a damn fool to do the same!
When we recognise the motivation behind our judgement, we can stop judging others and also become immune to incoming judgement.
You think I’m an idiot for my life choices? That’s fine because I’m not you, and I know I’m not an idiot.
Or as Suelo put it beautifully in an online discussion:
“I know whether or not your statement is true, and you know that I know whether or not it is true, because it is about me. But do you know that your statement is true? This is what I mean by passing judgement.”