On asking questions… And what I learn from them

My interactions with people tend to involve me listening and asking questions. It helps me learn about them and about the way the world works. I find questions valuable for communication between people and for knowledge of oneself.

What I learned in my most recent travel is that all of my questions are futile, pointless, and a waste of time if I do not apply what I have learned. I will give two examples.

My pen pal Eleonora. She told me that she avoids dark streets and deserted areas because she is aiming to reduce the chance of her being raped. She gave me an example. She asked if I would walk out into the pasture on the other side of the train tracks. I said yes, because I can see that no one is there. And she told me she wouldn’t because she can see that no one is there. Therefore she can feel threatened/perceive danger in any place because her imagination is what is ruling her actions. This is a dangerous person to be around. Why? Because her actions are influenced not by what she perceives but by what she imagines. Since she is always reacting to what she imagines, it is hard to find a common ground with this person. She is so often acting on what she sees in her mind and not what is actually happening. She is clearly disillusioned. So when I left her in the club to dance in another room, she felt I had abandoned her in the face of danger since she perceived danger at the club and on the walk home to the station. So even though she told me that I could go ahead and meet her at the station, she would perceive danger and might resent me for having left her. And this is exactly what happened. I wanted her to act the way I do so I wanted her to be ok being left alone. But of course she wasn’t.

Another example: Filipe, a boy I met at the hostel in Verona. I agreed to explore the city with him and another boy from the hostel. The other boy was lamenting about a recent break up and so we were talking about love. Filipe mentioned that he did not believe in romantic love and sometimes he refused to answer my questions because they were “too intimate.”And the fact that he considers some questions too intimate to answer, some questions should not be asked, then he will keep some things from me. Another time, he picked a flower to give to me and then changed his mind and didn’t give it to me. He told me it was because he usually does not like giving flowers because when a flower is picked it kills it. After picking he realized that he had picked and therefore ending the existence of the most beautiful flower in order to give to me. Strange that he second-guessed his actions. Still, I liked the things he said soI invited him to Venice since he didn’t have plans after Verona. At one point he told me he did not want to come because Venice is a romantic city. But on the day I was supposed to leave he told me he would come with. I found out how to take the bus to the station and we left the hostel. Once we got into the station, he got close to me, looked me in my eyes, and told me that I would be going to Venice and he would be going to Milan. He opened up his jacket and took out a picture frame of a sailboat and handed it to me, telling me this was his Venice. I still am disappointed in how this turned out. But what I learned from this was that I was too trusting and not attentive enough. I learned that he does not believe in romantic love and that he was not completely honest with me because he wouldn’t answer all of my questions. So I should have been more on my toes. I was upset because I expected him to act a certain way instead of seeing him for what he really is.

I met a lot of people who were new to me in that they had ways of expressing themselves that are unfamiliar to me. My encounters with them reminded me that I must be attentive and see people for who they are and not who I would like them to be, and then treat them accordingly.

Being attentive is not enough; I must apply what I learn.


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