“The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions, and evils, is rooted in the three poisons. Greed, anger, and delusion.” ~ Bodhidharma.
In my youth I was an avid reader. From the simple fairy tales of childhood, through girl detective stories to historical romances, I read them all. Short stories were special treats, you could dip into one before going to sleep, read a complete story then put the book aside, make it last a little longer. Television did not play a big part in those years – for the first 6 years living in Jamaica we didn’t own one. When my parents finally broke down and got one, reception could be tricky, so it was easy to turn it on for the news, then off again. Books, now they never failed.
For a while I was into the genre of science fiction, Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. It isn’t always easy to buy into the type of fiction that requires you to imagine something not yet invented, an alternate universe peopled with robots. They call it suspension of disbelief. A good author can pull you in to their make-believe world and you have no issue with time travel, teleportation, watches that double as phones. There is a current author whose books have been turned into a successful TV series (Outlander) who has her heroine (and others) able to move back and forth through time, leaving a husband behind in the present, falling passionately in love with another some two hundred years in the past. Sure, why not? Suspension of disbelief.
Unlike any other animal that we know of, human beings are capable of amazing acts of imagination, of creation and innovation. It takes tremendous inventiveness to come up with things not yet in existence – major things like electricity, convenient things like toilet paper. From the sublime to the ridiculous, mankind has let his (forgive the masculine pronouns) imagination run wild. Sometimes it is by studying nature, using patterns already in existence that great structures can be built. Mathematics can explain how spirals, whorls and patterns come about. The mathematician Alan Turing (who created an early computer model to break the German Enigma code) was working on the ‘reaction-diffusion’ model explaining these patterns before he committed suicide.
We are living through some interesting times. We have information at our fingertips. We can access complex scientific studies or gossip about the latest celebrity. Unfortunately, with the abundance of information comes an inability at times to separate fact from fiction. Stories take on a life of their own, distributed, shared and amplified through social media. Even reputable journals, with an editorial board of experts, a process of peer review and verification, can be taken in by a convincing hoax. There are so many competing news media with similar names but completely different practices that you have to carefully determine whether you are reading fact or fiction.
There is a line in an old rock and roll song which goes ‘teach your children well’. It seems to me that in these times of distance learning (or whatever passes for it), parents are being given an awesome opportunity and responsibility, to make up for some of the shortcomings of our current educational system. Despite evidence to the contrary, in the USA students are mostly taught to the test – taught to give the right answers in standardized tests instead of being challenged to discover, to explore, to create. In the interest of meeting norms and benchmarks, individuality has been squashed. Learning has become a chore, not an adventure.
In many states, the textbooks of school districts have been politically chosen and manipulated, inconvenient truths have been disguised, whitewashed and in some cases removed, to serve those with a vested interest in propagating misinformation. Those who graduate from such institutions base a lot of their fundamental beliefs on those lies, and then assume any information that contradicts to be false, to be fake. Thankfully, these strange times have allowed for some of these lost stories to be circulated, heroes and inventors and courageous warriors long forgotten are coming back to life. Just google ‘black man who invented….’ and prepare to be educated.
But along with the buried treasures are the tragedies, the terrible truths. Native Americans have their own pain and sorrow, hidden out of sight and off the front pages. It is time for us to acknowledge the delusion upon which this country was founded and face up to the truth. In South Africa, after the end of apartheid, the people chose to offer amnesty to those who would speak openly and honestly about the crimes they had committed in the name of apartheid, the black men they had ‘disappeared’ or arrested and cruelly beaten for nothing more than speaking the truth. Truth and Reconciliation may not bring about vengeance, but without an acknowledgment of the crimes committed, the people could not move forward.
These strange times may be the most exciting of all, since we are being given this opportunity to embrace, acknowledge and forgive (for reparation seems an impossible dream) the crimes of the past and create a new reality. The corona virus sent us to our rooms to consider our sins, the world has been placed on time-out. One act of cruel inhumanity in Wisconsin exposed layers of criminality and systemic racism. This may be our only chance to envision and set in motion a brave new world.
This Friday morning, I hope you can imagine your role in an awakened society, one which prefers fact to fiction, accuracy to papered over lies. May your children and grandchildren benefit from this global reboot, and may we vow to demand better of our ‘leaders’, holding them accountable for the lies they have permitted to be accepted as fact.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!