500 Words - Day 2: If you could read minds, whose mind would you read?
I imagine the first thing I would learn if I were able to read minds is that people do in fact think of us far less than we think they do. As I look around the coffee shop I realize I haven't actually thought about the people surrounding me. I've noticed them, that they're here, but I haven't given a single thought to what brought them here today, what kind of coffee they're drinking, or what possessed them to take on that hairstyle. It seems just as likely that they've thought nothing more of me than I of them. I find it comforting, mostly. We can go through our days without the anxiety of wondering how we look, what we wear, or even what we say. How many small interactions with people have I had that I can even recall a day later? A year? I forget far more than I remember, so even if I did have a thought in a moment it dissolves into nothingness just as quickly.
But the prompt is asking me to consider whose mind I would read if I were able. With no limit in place, I'm sure I would read everyone's mind wherever I found a self-serving reason. I would read my wife's mind when I ask her what she wants to watch, to have for dinner, where she would like to go on a date, or what she wants during sex. I would read my employer's mind during salary negotiations to figure out exactly how much I could make, the mechanic's mind to see exactly how much I'm getting screwed, or the postal carrier's mind to see what she thinks of my subscriptions to Writer's Digest and Fly Fisherman magazine. I would read my children's minds to better understand exactly how they felt, what they need, or where they're struggling so that I could do everything possible to help them. Or I'd read the minds of friends to know what they really thought of me.
This is really the question of reading minds or any super power we can imagine. Will we use it for good or for ill? Will we make use of some power to satisfy our own needs and desires, or will we act purely in the service of others. Once we read someone's mind, what would we do with that information?
I don't trust myself enough to possess such a power, but I would not want it in the first place. The veil between our minds is part of what makes humanity such a wonderful thing. The privacy of our thoughts creates space for us to welcome others in. Intimacy requires trust. Integrity requires us to tell the truth. Connection requires us to spend intentional, undistracted time with one another, to listen to each other. Any shortcut would rob us of the human experience. It would cheapen friendship and love.
Next time, ask me if I would rather be able to fly or become invisible.