Jim Morrison was one conflicted cat. With an off-the-charts IQ, model looks, Sinatra-quality voice, and inner pain that he knew exactly how to express through poetry, he took the music scene by storm in 1967, after a couple of years maturation with his band The Doors.

Jim, a Navy brat, and whose father was an Admiral, was well-educated, a ferocious reader, and a brilliant writer, digging deep into Nietzsche, Plutarch, and Rimbaud as a teenager. He later went on to graduate from the UCLA film school in 1965.

Personally, I was too young – only about ten years old – when the Doors became a national phenomenon with songs like Light My Fire, and LA Woman. It was later through purchasing a compilation album, that Jim captured my attention with the dark and searing pain of ‘The End,’ and ‘Unknown Soldier.’

And then there was ‘People are Strange.’

The first 30 times I heard ’People are Strange’, I heard it as an outsider looking in. Later however, I realized that I had it all wrong – it was a song about an insider looking out:

People are strange when YOU’RE a stranger
Faces look ugly when YOU’RE alone
Women seem wicked when YOU’RE unwanted
Streets are uneven when YOU’RE down…

When YOU’RE strange
Faces come out of the rain
When YOU’RE strange
No one remembers your name…

Indeed, many people seem strange, when we don’t know them, and vice versa. Because our reality -and their’s – is created through each of our perspectives. When we know little about others, we fill in the blanks with our biases and assumptions, which are often driven by our agendas…attention, money…whatever.

Similarly, “people are strange” to us in dentistry. Spend a minute on a dental social media site where people are writing openly about their experiences, and you will see it. Often mockingly, patients are talked about in ways that are almost sub-human. They refused to cooperate…they were obsessed about this, when I wanted to do that…they were so difficult to deal with, I couldn’t get a damn thing done.

There is a reason that L.D. Pankey toured the world with Harold Wirth teaching “Know your patient!” And that is because people are strange, when YOU’RE a stranger. And when we think they are strange, how can we possibly best serve them? And what if the only reason they seem strange is we never took the time to listen to them? What if the problem primarily had to do with OUR perspective?

What if the reason why they ”don’t remember our name,” is because we never bothered to take the time to make a personal connection? What if they never felt heard? What if their feelings and perspective were never acknowledged? What if they felt “alone”?

What if part of the problem is that we need to feel needed as well…and when we don’t feel it, we respond defensively, and make up rationalizations like: “Man, she was strange.”

Paul A. Henny, DDS

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