THE BLOG
04/06/2012 11:53 EDT | Updated 06/06/2012 05:12 EDT

Dispatches from Down East: When Seeing is not Believing

Why in this day and age do we still form quickly arrived at, negative first impressions about people? And why do we so undeniably feed into stereotypical patterns of labelling people based on appearance, confidence levels, fashion sense and charisma, among other equally irrelevant character traits?

I am not one of those people who pays much attention to those endless links that everybody likes to post all over my Facebook news feed. I mostly see these links as clutter, and I try to quickly zip past them so as to read the juicier stuff...what everybody has been eating for supper, and how boring their day really was last Wednesday.

So tonight, on a whim, I decide to watch a link that was posted on the Momastery Facebook home page, as I was promised smiles for viewing. It sounded too enticing an offer to pass up. And I really needed a smile.

I cried, rather. It was touching and soul-stirring. And I was surprised at how quickly I was moved to tears by such a predictable human interest story that was guaranteed to be an automatic tear-jerker: I pride myself on being that one person that says "no big deal." I hate living up to people's emotional expectations of me. It is so "inside the box".

The video story presents like this, if you have not yet seen it plastered all over your Facebook home page. On the reality show "Britain's Got Talent" , a teenage duo come out onto the stage: One is an overweight, self-described "shy" boy; the other is an attractive brunette girl. As they walk out together, Simon Cowell flashes his judge cohorts the raised eyebrows and the under-the-breath snide remark, "Just when you think things couldn't get any worse." Prior to the pair's performance, there is the requisite grilling about motives and intent. Then the question is asked, "Do you think you could win?"

Yes, indeed they do think they could win, Simon. Thanks for asking.

How boringly and conventionally this is all unfolding.

The audience waits with baited breath. Some grip seats in front of them. Many exchange nervous looks. Everyone gets ready for the embarrassing moment of the show, that awkward moment when you try to peel your eyes away from the screen while someone else's life goes up in flames before an audience of 19 million viewers.

Wrong ending this time. Save that awkward feeling you've got going on for another episode of the same show. It will be sure to be present again, if you watch reality television often enough.

The story climaxes to reveal a very talented young tenor, with a supernatural, amazing range and vocal quality, accompanied by an equally talented soprano. After their duet wraps up, the audience gives a standing ovation, and Simon gets his last word in: "I like the fact that you are a duo, but I worry Charlotte," he says to the girl, "that you're going to hold him back."

Jonathan, the male vocalist, replies, "We've come on here as a duo, and we're going to stay a duo."

Crowd erupts into wild applause. I just about lose it myself, but I manage to get away with merely a few tears rather than the full-blown ugly cry I feel welling up inside me.

I begrudgingly love this story, and here is one of the reasons why. Watching them sing made me look at myself and how I form opinions about others, and the whole experience acted as a reminder that no, Simon, you cannot judge a book by its cover.

Their story, Jonathan and Charlotte's, caught me red-handed as well. I could not buy into Jonathan especially until I heard his unnaturally gifted voice. Although I was passively uncommitted prior to viewing, and I did not feel any kind of active revulsion toward the pair, I was a bit noncommittal about the duo's pending performance. Even a bit sceptical.

We often take our cues from other participants in life experiences, those whom are around at the time of the experience. And we can be susceptible to falling into patterns that can only be described as the herd mentality. What I see others do, I do. How others react, I react. My public self and my private self can be easily disengaged from one another depending on the opinions of others around me and how strongly those opinions are expressed.

Moments like this one can give clarity, and act as a self-check. First impressions, which are made in the first minute of meeting someone, can often reveal to be false impressions. All too many times, we allow our first impressions to be formed based on stereotypes and commonly held assumptions. Why in this day and age do we still form quickly arrived at, negative first impressions about people? And why do we so undeniably feed into stereotypical patterns of labelling people based on appearance, confidence levels, fashion sense and charisma, among other equally irrelevant character traits?

I love Jonathan and Charlotte, and I will shamelessly watch this video again tonight for the umpteenth time because it was so undeniably open and raw. I just wish that their story wasn't so sensational for the obvious reasons. It has made headlines because they defied the stereotypes that were formed based on first impressions. Hearing is believing, in this case.

I just wonder why we all can't buy into the notion that seeing is believing.