by María L. Trigos-Gilbert

Uncorroborated Assumptions: Today I saw a stranger, passing by at one of the coffee shops of my university and she sat behind my seat. She looked like a punk, but I don’t know. I never asked her; I just labeled her. My pragmatism embraced my bitter kindness, almost an obscenity. A punk? Hmm . . . she looked like a human being: Two legs, two eyes, two arms. She seemed to have a brain; she was writing an essay. Or was it a love letter? I don’t know. I never asked. I just assumed it all.

Corroborated Assumptions: Today I saw a stranger, passing by at one of the coffee shops of my university and she sat behind my seat. She looked like a punk; I know . . . I asked her. I just didn’t label her. I locked my stubbornness, my bitter kindness, almost an obscenity. A punk? Hmm . . . yes, she was. I asked her. Indeed she was also very human: Two of everything . . . legs, eyes, arms. She had a brain; she was writing an essay. I know . . . I asked her. I never assumed my thoughts. I asked her; it was an assignment for one of her classes.

Perceptions and Conclusions
The matter of assuming things, situations, or people is almost a dangerous act. Yet we do it on a daily basis, of course without full awareness. We live assuming all what our senses perceive; from my point of view this fact, our assumptions, seems to have two main reasons which could be easily divided into other sub-reasons. Nevertheless, I will just consider the two main following inferences:

A) We assume what is obvious; no explanation is necessary, it is too plain.

B) We assume what is not so obvious; an explanation is required. Therefore, I will give it one.

At times we believe that it is white or black, whatever the matter may be, because it appears to be one way or the other, black or white, “nothing to it.” Haven’t you heard those words too many times? I have heard those words more than a lot, and every time I listen to people saying that polemical phrase it twists my stomach some.

Let us use some philosophical and mathematical logic.

• Susan looks sick.
• Susan has a cold.
• Susan is sick.
I know that the previous two premises and conclusion doesn’t brake your head, nor mine at all. Am I right? I know so. It is a very simple train of eloquence. We think about something; then we find out that what we have been thinking has a full support to our conclusion, “Susan is sick.”

Now let us consider this other reasoning.

• Susan looks sick.
• Susan is tired.
• Susan is not sick.
This other analysis doesn’t brake our heads either. Am I right? I know so. Once again this is just eloquence; we are not just going alone with what we see or think, but with what we find out or know. Life would be a lot better or more peaceful if we indeed use those kinds of logic. Of course, it is not too practical to write down each thought that crosses our mind. It wouldn’t be pragmatic because we will be running out of time or space to use such logic. Now, this is not to say that it is okay to start making false assumptions whenever we feel like it, or whenever we lack time or space because our conclusions more likely will be faulty. Certainly we don’t want to live with unsatisfactory premises and false conclusions. We want to know the truth of whatever is in question or with the potentiality of bringing up questions, statements, or determinations.

Verification: Is It Important?
If you paid good attention to Uncorroborated Assumptions and Corroborated Assumptions, you may have noticed that from its title to each one’s theme, they are both opposing each other. While Uncorroborated Assumptions says, “I don’t know. I never asked her,” Corroborated Assumptions says, “I know. I asked her.” This is the essence that differentiates one from the other one. While one is merely assuming, the other one goes to the trouble of VERIFYING! You may be thinking that it is okay. Yet indeed we more likely wouldn’t go around verifying every single thing that we see in life. Therefore, I must say that you are completely right.

Now, the arising problem is the following: Does it matter if we corroborate or if we don’t corroborate certain things, situations, or people? It may, or it may not. It depends on IF it is an important or an unimportant concern. You will be the judge. As someone told me long time ago, “María, if it is important now as much as it will be important in a thousand years, then it is really important NOW.”

The truth is that we won’t live a thousand years as far as I know. Nevertheless, I would rephrase those words with the following: If it matters now as much as it may matter tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year, then it matters NOW. Time, we complain about our lack of time, yet we seem to have an un-clocked watch when it comes to the “opportunity” of guessing, assuming things.

Judging by Appearances
Let me be fair and honest; Uncorroborated Assumptions and Corroborated Assumptions really happened where I wrote at that both occurred, at one of the coffee shops of the university that I attend. I must tell you that the second part never happened. I never corroborated a thing because I never made any assumptions. Yet a friend of mine made the assumption that the person passing by was a punk, and indeed her intelligence was in question. I was petrified with my friend’s thoughts, and I told her that it wasn’t fair to ASSUME a thing from somebody who we didn’t know a tiny bit, except for her dress “code.”

My friend and I debated the issue a lot that arose out of the blue. I wasn’t expecting such a conversation that day nor in the future, but it did happen. We talked it out, and we both concluded that although a book may be judged by its cover, it wasn’t satisfying enough to conclude how good or bad the book could be. Of course, it was like a miracle because there have been times when I am not so successful when I try to tell people that we ought not to judge one another for the mere appearances.

Personal Case, Spanish Literature Course
My mind lives once again back in those days when I used to look up every single English word. Those days were fine because people used to be a bit more understanding toward me than nowadays. Of course, I am not complaining! I am just realizing how sweet people seemed to be when I asked the meaning of a word. Time has passed and people tend to assume that I am “supposed” to know this or that. At times my accent has given me away, and almost everybody recognizes my Latin-Spaniard accent, though they claim my English is “perfect.”

Hmm . . . I am even remembering those days when I went back to Venezuela, the country where I was born. I was living in Spain and most of the time I stayed in Galicia with few visits to Madrid, Santiago de Compostela, and some other cities. My accent has never ever been the same since then! My mother worked so hard to get rid of such accent and told me with a demanding character, “You must start speaking like us; otherwise, you are going to face a very difficult time in school when it starts.” My sister, brother, and one of my cousins were teaching me how to say things on a daily basis, how things in general were supposed to be said in Castellano Spanish rather than Galician dialect. They worked on my accent a lot; they couldn’t believe how different from most of them I sounded. Since my father is from Spain, and most of the time I remained in his home town, home city, and home country. He seemed to be just a happy and a super proud father. I was almost his reflection; he laughed so much and enjoyed my accent and language so much. We communicated super well with an incredible gladness. Our eyes were speaking to each other at all times, “I understand what you are saying. We think alike; we are the same. I know what you are going through!” It felt good to have someone really knew how it was like!

Challenge of Languages
Well, nowadays I am not just taking English courses and English literature and grammar courses. I am also taking some Spanish courses at NLU, Northeast Louisiana University. Has it been easy? Hmm . . . let me think about it. Okay, I have given it a thought, and the answer is NO! No, it hasn’t been easy because people EXPECT too much from me. The students and professors think that I just know it all. Are they right? Oh please, nothing could be farther from reality! It doesn’t matter what language it is, it is still a bit challenging. When I am graded in my Spain’s History course and Spain’s Literature, I am graded MIGHTY HARD because I speak the language and because “I am supposed to know it all.” Is it right?

Well, let me put it in this way . . . IF you know what you “should” know in English, if from time to time you don’t have to look a word up, if you know all the English terms, if you know everything that “must” be known about the North American English literature and the British English writers, (Middle English and so on) THEN MY FRIEND we are talking about that you are “God” on earth.

I do think that the English speaking students who are in my Spain’s literature course, study hard and very hard. Nevertheless, I have a super mighty huge responsibility of studying hard and harder BECAUSE they think and expect me to know it all and to explain it all. They charge me of knowing both languages well, English and Spanish, and of having a tiny of understanding of French and Galician. Well, I have an answer for those ASSUMPTIONS: I wasn’t born with any of those languages! How is that? I was taught all those languages, and I had to study them as much as I am still studying all of them! I was not born speaking Spanish, English, Galician, and a lot less French. Yet, I, like most of us, was born with the ability and power of speaking a language and indeed more than one if some effort was exerted.

What You Do With What You Get
We all have many abilities, or at least we have an ability that we should or could develop if we choose so. Yes, good things may happen if we choose to give them a try, and a bit more than a mere try. As I told a friend not too long ago (I heard the expression somewhere; I don’t remember when or who said it to me, or where I read it), “LIFE IS NOT SO MUCH OF WHAT YOU GET, BUT WHAT YOU DO WITH WHAT YOU GET.” We have also heard of that almost bitter expression, “If life gives you lemons, make a lemonade.” This is how an optimist will view, picture, life. While the pessimist will say, “Why me?” The Great Temptation of Saying, “Why me?”

Yes, at times there is a huge temptation of cursing out people and situations. The expression of asking oneself or asking God, “Why me?” Is a way of cursing out, but a little more politically correct. You are almost implying, “I don’t deserve this, and I don’t know why I am the one to suffer it. So why me?” Of course, there are times that I have said the almost rhetorical question more than once in a year.

Now, I guess that we all have also heard this from time to time, “Take it or leave it.” This is the other side of circumstances. There we are facing those not so welcomed circumstances, but indeed going through them. We almost get thrilled by them and don’t feel so much of a threat. This is an almost optimistic point of taking things in life. Now the question is the following: Do we assume more than we should? Do we assume things fairly? This is a very personal matter, this questioning. I am not going to answer them for you, but I will say that at times I have assumed more than I “should.” The job of being fair is almost an impossible, but it is not impossible to try to do our best at all times, though at all times we don’t feel like it . . . TELL ME ABOUT IT!

So, What about the Spanish Literature Course?
The truth is that it is not an easy course for me. I get good grades if not the best in the class . . . but I study hard and harder just because I don’t want to feel bad about myself. There are times that I want to scream to them these following words, “My dear, I have been right there: a new language, a new vocabulary, a completely new subject, and in front of an enormous challenge with a new language . . . been there and done that. Yet there is a difference between you and me. When I am in my English literature courses, I have never ever had a professor who speaks Spanish and a lot less Galician. I have never ever been graded less hard because English is not my native language. On the contrary, I have begged them to grade me as hard as they would grade the English native students BECAUSE I don’t want anyone to wonder how, when, and where I got A’s in my English courses. I want them to think that I got what I have worked for. I want them to think highly of me, not badly of me or so. I want to be proud of myself. I don’t want to feel as if my grades have been given away. Even more my professors have told me that I am graded just as any English native speaker is graded . . . IT MAKES ME FEEL GOOD!” Hey, if I tell them so, this will be A SPEECH, funny? Yes, it would be funny, very funny.

One of the world’s problem is that we live in a constant dream. We live assuming more than we “should” if after all we should assume a thing, anything. Life will be less complicated if we try to realize how difficult at times things may be for the other person. Life will be a lot more lovely if we try to walk at least a mile in someone else’s shoes. Life will be a lot more productive if we indeed stop assuming and start DOING A LOT MORE than we dream of doing. Why would a person want to keep singing John Lennon’s song “Imagine”? Why wouldn’t a person DO MORE THAN IMAGINING? It is a lot less painful to do something than to imagine it! It is painful to dream about being intelligent rather than working toward being really intelligent. It is more painful to imagine a better world, peaceful world, rather than making and working for and with peace! My dear reader, it is not a lot easier to think, to assume, or to pretend; on the contrary, it is not worthy of one’s time when instead of a thought something could be done or taking place.

“I have a dream,” Martin Luther King
Wow, my goodness, yes, the man had a dream, BUT IT DIDN’T STOP THERE! Just look around! Turn on the TV, the radio, or do some Web navigation – and tell me with a clean face IF the man was merely dreaming or WORKING TOWARD A DREAM!

Abraham Lincoln, was he another “dreamer”?
What do you think? I have many books at home, since I wasn’t alive during those days that say the man had a dream and also WORKED FOR IT! Once again, I urge to give another look around your country, USA. I urge you to KEEP WORKING for the purest of all the good intentions of a man who gave his life for his country and in return asked NOT A SINGLE THING, except a better country!

What about George Washington?
Oh me, this man left his home town, state, left momentarily his beloved wife, was betrayed by one of his disciples . . . BUT didn’t give up his dream!

“Oh, how much I would like to play the violin like you sir!” Yes, I forgot, like most of the time, who said what to whom. Yet I remember the most important thing, the moral behind. This young man says to this fine violin player,

“Oh sir, how much I would love to play like you, I would give my life to play like you.”

The marvelous player looked at him and said, “GOOD! Because I gave my life to play like this!”

I am speechless every time I say, write, or think about those words.

It is so easy to judge, to assume, to wish, to pretend, BUT it is so difficult to live like we dream of living. Now, you must remember something: Things are not impossible; they become impossibilities when we make them so. They become bitter achievements when we make them so. They become nightmares when we make them so. Oh goodness, and how many times I have made them so . . . “too many” times! Don’t despair; we are human beings, so it is easy and okay to make mistakes, but stupidity is to live with them and for them!