Sunday, May 23, 2010

Both Sides of the Story

Often times we're too apt to believe everything we hear. In fact, some tend to perceive what they want to perceive, rather than what they were really being told. Too frequently this tendency leads to great amounts of unnecessary misunderstanding, pain, anger and in the case I am going to relate, fear.

From one side:
A man, let's call him Anon1, stood alone in the corridor in front of the lifts. It was late and the corridor was empty and ghastly silent. He waited impatiently; one lift was on its way, but it took its time. He watched the floor numbers change on the display. It arrived. The doors started sliding open and in that instant, the most horrifying shriek filled the space all around him, pierced right through him and sent shudders to the very core of his being. It was loud, shrill, tortured. Anon1 did not wait to take a clear look into the dimness beyond the still-opening doors. He turned and took off as quickly as he could, pulse racing and hands cold and clammy. He was sure the banshee-cry he heard did not belong amongst the living.

From the other side:
A woman, let's call her Anon2, went into a lift with her two young sons, let's call them Lil'un1 and Lil'un2. Anon2 and her sons had just returned from shopping, and each child had in his hand a brand new toy. As children usually do, they bickered. Their mother, shopping bags in hands, tried in vain to hush them, to reason with them, to tell them to play nice. It was at the floor right below theirs that the lift slowed to a halt. At that moment, Lil'un1 snatched his brother's toy from him. Lil'un2, indignant but powerless to fight his older brother, screamed at the top of his lungs. It was long, loud, high-pitched and very passionate. Anon2 could only roll her eyes. The doors were wide open, but no one stepped in. She took a quick look outside - there was no one. The doors closed, and they were on their way once more.

True story?
Why, yes! In parts, at least, it is true. I was personally in the lift with Anon2 and her little ones, and witnessed the bickering and the screaming. But in reality, when we looked outside the opened doors, we saw the shocked faces of 2 grown men, agape and dazed. It took them several heartbeats' time to realise it was a little boy screaming, and to regain enough composure to raise their hands to their chests, as if to calm their shaken nerves. They did not enter the lift, and the last things we saw as the doors closed were the men rolling their eyes and grumbling.

So, in reality, all was well - there was actually no need for both sides of the story to make the complete, accurate picture of what actually transpired. But take a moment to consider what would have happened if the incident were exactly as I described in the two separate sides. Anon1 would have been convinced the building was haunted, and the story would have been propagated. Consider the many who would probably thereafter take the lifts in fear; the many who would probably be alarmed over the slightest sounds or sights, and let their imaginations run; the many who would then propagate the inaccurate tale further, with additional twists and distortions - and all because the story was missing the other side.

Yet, we are all too apt to believe everything we hear. How many of us would fain to accept that there is always a side of the story we need to discover, to contemplate, to include into the big picture? No doubt, it serves our personal agendas much better to simply see what we want to see, believe what we want to believe, and present tales in manners to achieve the effects we want to achieve. It is something everyone does, but would never want to admit - such as propagating a thrilling "ghost story".

I am glad we didn't need both the sides this time to ascertain that there are NO banshees in the lifts.

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