I happen to like the song, although I don't hear it much these days. It does have a good message, and I do think it's message is correct. On the other hand, there are so many times and situations these days when I think of the title of that song and think, "what the world REALLY needs now is more understanding". Now, since I've admitted to liking "What The World Needs Now.." and just made that statement, I'm thinking there's the chance you think I'm some "puppy-dogs-and-daisies kind of person" who lives in "la-la land". Believe me, I've never even had the chance, or luxury, to even temporarily vist any "la-la land". While I'm fortunate in so many ways in life, one of those ways has never included being born into a charmed of "cushion-y" life. No, in fact I'm more the kind of person who has had any version of a cushion I may have managed to find for myself pulled out from under me - or else, I've just been pushed off any cushion I've temporarily managed to use, been kicked around a little, and still managed to either stand on my two feet or else find a functional, metal, folding-chair to call my own.
None of what I've just said is self-pity. In fact, it isn't even macho, even though I'm a woman and women aren't particularly referred to as "macho". What I've just said is mainly to point out that I'm not a "puppy-dogs-and-daisies", clueless, kid who believes that love conquers all, and that all stories have happy endings. It doesn't, and they don't. I have, however, just paid a little tribute to a song that many would consider corny, and I'm about to propose that another song be written that is just as corny, if not more.
While the song-in-question is a perfectly fine song, what I'd like to see written is a song with the title, "What The World Needs Now Is More Understanding" - because, truly, the longer I've lived and the more I see and hear in the offline world and on the Internet; the more clear it has become that one the biggest problems in this world is lack of understanding.
Now, wishing for a song about how the world needs more understanding, and wishing for more understanding in this world in the first place, can seem like wishing for what can never happen. After all, we are all so different in this world. Heck, even in our own families and communities we're different from people in our inner circles. True, we're so often far more alike than different; but the ways, and combinations of ways, in which we can all be different from one another are so many. How on Earth can any of us ever understand what someone else is going through or has gone through that has, for example, made him make some choices or end up in a situation he's in? The answer to that is that we can't.
There are things that people go through that nobody else can ever truly understand unless/until he has experienced the very same thing - "walked in shoes". The trouble is that, with each of us being individual and being in our, unique, circumstances; there is never really any "walking in someone else's shoes", no matter how hard we try. It doesn't help, either, that far too many people either can't or won't even bother to try.
On top of that, we human beings have this thing where, even when we do go through something, we can forget how we felt when we were going through it. A simple example might be, say, the common cold. When we have a cold we're more than well aware of how rotten it feels. Then, though, the cold goes away and we start to forget how it felt until another cold comes along, and we once again recall how miserable a cold can be. If we can't even always remember how bad some things can feel how on Earth could we be expected to imagine what we have never experienced, and imagine all the larger and small layers and layers of how something feels at the time it is being experienced?
In some instances we may be able to have a rough idea of how someone else feels as he goes through one experience or another. For example, the person who has lost a beloved parent may have a rough idea/pretty good idea of how awful it is for someone else to go through the same thing. Still, there are differences - different personalities, different relationships, different circumstances.
No, no matter how we try, we can never truly understand how it feels to be in someone else's shoes, or how felt to be in the circumstances and relationships that built those shoes and/or wore them down to the point where they hurt the feet of the very person who, like most other people, has simply walked in the shoes he got - and maybe even managed to keep his footing.
There's something, though, that should not be difficult for any of us to understand about any of the rest of us; and that it the simple fact that we cannot always know, or understand, what someone else has lived with, lived through and/or faced; or what he lives with, deals with, and fights each day in order not to just walk in his own shoes; but remain standing on the two feet that have served him well, whether he has relied on them for standing, walking, dancing, or running toward or away from one thing or another.
No, we can never understand all those things with which someone else lives; and that's why, before we judge, lecture, offer opinions on, criticize and/or feel smug and superior to someone else; we need to remind ourselves that we cannot understand what someone else has lived with or must live with. We can't see what he has survived or what kind of challenges he's faced in order to survive at all, whether mentally, physically, emotionally, or financially.
Judging, criticizing, and lecturing amount to lack of respect for the other person; and I once read an analysis of love that pointed out that healthy and whole love, regardless of what kind of relationship is involved, must include respect. Judging, criticizing, and lecturing are most often about arrogance, ignorance and ego. One problem is that too many people don't know what they don't.
That's why I say, however, that while it's nice to think about how the world could use more love; what the world truly needs today is more understanding; even if that understanding can only come in the form of understanding that we can never understand what someone else has gone through or is going through - because, so often, if we could truly understand that much about someone else we'd also see that if we could truly walk in that person's shoes we would walk the very same path, the very same way, as that other person does.
Photo: ME Whelan