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Susan Smalley, Ph.D. Headshot

Changing Places

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I saw Tracy Ullman's new show, State of the Union, where Tracy even became Arianna Huffington for a few minutes. What I love about this show is Tracy's capacity to morph into another human being and become that person.

If ever there was a show that might encourage us to see the world from another's perspective, this is it. Who would you become - if you could - for a minute, an hour, or a day - not to do anything but to experience the world from their eyes?

Today, I would become

George Bush.

Our family's housekeeper.

One of my children.

A mother living in an African refugee camp.

An Iraqi Muslim.

A prisoner in San Quentin.

A Tibetan protester.

A Chinese athlete training for the Olympics.

Stephen Hawking.

A southern-born, fundamentalist Christian.

With each of these experiences, I know my view of our differences would shrink by orders of magnitude. I know that I would understand more about how and why someone else thinks the way they do, acts the way they do, feels the way they do. I know our similarities would become more apparent if I could see how they interpret the experiences within and around them. What if we could just know what another person knows, feel what another person feels, have a personal history - a narrative of another?

I think that the shortest route to kindness would be to see life through another's eyes.

So Tracy Ullman makes us laugh through those she embodies, she magnifies our stereotypes and biases, but the idea of becoming another person is a key to enhancing our humanity.

Scientists have been studying just that and are proving the same scientifically. A key element of increasing human compassion - our humanity - is to know you are part of the 'human condition' that we all share. Understanding our individual differences in the way we think, feel, and act, requires a deeper understanding of life from another's perspective. Anyway we can bring this about will move our species along an evolutionary trajectory toward more loving and peaceful behavior. Thanks Tracy for giving us a television show for survival.

Tell us below: if you could become someone, who would it be?

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