2120 Hindsight: Those Sad, Confused Centuries of Critical Thought

17Aug09

As every child learns in school, we must love and care for the people in our lives, even when they think and speak in negative and critical terms.  To reject independent, critical thought and speech is to become independent and critical oneself.  Indeed, our acceptance of the people, and of their words and thoughts, must be deep and sincere.  They are “right,” in the way of thinking that lies beneath independent thinking, because everyone and everything is right from that perspective; it’s just a matter of finding and understanding what that perspective is.  They would not think and talk as they do if they did not hold such a perspective – unless, of course, they hold a perspective that says they do not hold such a perspective.  Ultimately, we seek to understand and interact with the perspectives, and with the perspectives on the perspectives.

The purpose of this acceptance is not to manipulate or deceive such persons by persuading them that we share their views when we do not.  Completely sharing the views of another is nice when it occurs, but everyone knows that often it does not occur.  Views come and go; they change and completely invert themselves.  They are not really very relevant to long-term human interactions.  A view is a perspective; behind the perspective is a person; and in our world the focus is always upon the person.

In our understanding of history, it was not always like this.  There have been whole centuries, especially within the past 600 years, in which people were taught, from childhood onward, that they should develop views that differed from those of other people.  They were to emphasize their differences in every area of life – religion, wealth, even the home.  There were fights and hostilities on all levels – among individuals, among groups, and among nations – because people thought they were supposed to insist on seeing and having things their way.  They thought they were supposed to seek power to get what they wanted – through persuasion, deception, theft, violence, and so forth, as necessary.  Many influential people insisted that it was important to take things seriously – especially the things that those influential people themselves considered important.

Many people found it natural to think in these ways because independent, critical thought seemed to deliver important new achievements.  Fortunately, people began to return to more intelligent perspectives on that belief in the 21st century, when what had seemed to be “important” or an “achievement” in previous generations was, very often, just the opposite.  It seems so odd, to us now, that hardly anybody from those centuries knew how to insist that something was important, and was also not important, and that the insisting itself was both important and not important, for practical purposes – that, in other words, there would always be perspectives, and perspectives on the perspectives, and that the perspectives would unpredictably mutate and contradict themselves.  The perspectives were, of course, those of living creatures; and as we teach the children, life adapts.

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