Dark, rumbling clouds stirred him out. He stretched and looked around. Some of his friends were flying high but he couldn’t miss the sound – muffled yet clear.
“What are you digging?” Vendatta stood at the edge of the valley.
“To lend… to exchange.”
“Really? But souls are said to be free. They soar higher than clouds.”
“Beliefs don’t misguide me. I know my passion.”
“Where do you find them?”
“Some are buried and some fly high. Some I capture and bury.”
“Can you lend me one?”
“Sure,” said the Digger.
“Can I keep it forever?”
“Depends! If you have the inclination and the strength.”
All his depression melted.
Vendatta was a changed man now. He knew his destination.
We live in a complex world, driven by galloping technology that has opened vistas beyond our imagination yet the vice-like grip of mythology, superstitions, religion, and mysticism has not waned.
Why do we believe in the empty words of spiritual gurus who talk in circles, entrapping people in their words?
Why are we fascinated by paranormal world of fairies, mermaids, werewolves, ghosts and dragons? Why do we read books that take us into unknown realms, which we know don’t exist?
Why do we derive pleasure out of irrational movies and shows?
Why do people bow down to so many deities, offering flowers and money to get their prayers answered?
You may be having your own answers to my questions but they may seem illogical to me.
It all depends on the way you have been raised.
If you were allowed to ask questions, if they were answered convincingly; if you could dig deeper to satisfy yourself; if beliefs were never imposed on you; if your critical thinking was encouraged and nurtured, you would never believe in illogical thoughts.
How beliefs develop:
We tend to believe what we are told by our parents and peer group. All children don’t possess discerning thoughts; some can be easily led and molded. In a class of 40 students that I taught, 39 raised their hands when they were asked whether they went to a place of worship every weekend. Why? The answer was that their parents took them along. One student who didn’t raise his hand was the one who was never told to go.
Belief in Santa is created till we grow up to realize the truth of the magic that fascinates children.
Self-beliefs are created by our own mind, depending on the kind of treatment we get from friends, family and society. Once they get embedded in our minds, they become a part of our personality. We refuse to change them unless something drastic compels us to reconsider.
Books we read:
Books leave a lasting impression on our minds. As children we get carried away by fantasy and believe each word we read till we start questioning the authenticity of the worlds created in those books. I have often wondered how could Alice go down the rabbit hole and find so many friends and potions there! When we grow up with such books, we think everything is possible.
Respect for others:
We don’t want to hurt the sentiments of those who believe that Feng Shui could bring harmony in our relationships and peace into our homes. I have never told cat lovers that a black cat is considered to be inauspicious if she cuts your way. The superstition of never calling a person from behind when he is leaving his home has always been respected for his wellbeing and security.
Fear of repercussions:
Many people continue the traditions, which serve no useful purpose for fear of upsetting the elders of the house. I know a friend whose grandmother had placed an idol in one auspicious corner of the house and just because she showered and worshipped it every morning before entering the kitchen, the belief had to be followed by everyone. No one could think of moving the idol to another corner. Even the direction of the beds could not be changed, however illogical it may seem!
Political beliefs too can be illogical but they can cause serious rifts between friends and partners. So it is better to keep them out of discussion.
Do you know such people who harbor illogical beliefs?
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I have always been deeply disturbed by intolerance and wanted to write about it but I have always turned my face the other way, trying to avoid it, knowing well how deep-rooted this sentiment is and how less I know about it.
I have tried to understand it in my own limited arena, how it develops and gets aggravated within the families before it spills out onto the streets.
Quite early in life, I had my first encounter with this emotion albeit I had no idea that people call it intolerance and it is so widespread! With the passage of time I learnt that intolerance is the refusal to accept, appreciate and respect the views, beliefs or behavior of a person or a social group.
I also learnt that we are not born with intolerance. Children are too innocent to understand the depth of this term, which is defined for them by their parents, environment and the society in which they are raised.
So it is a learned behavior. It is most often trigged by fear or insecurity that people face in their immediate environment.
It is a universal phenomenon…in some societies it is camouflaged under empathy and help that leaders try to offer, only to exploit it for their own benefits, which could be political, religious or related to caste and color.
Mahatma Gandhi felt, “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.”
We inflict this violence on each other, without caring for the emotional hurts it causes especially on young adolescents who have to deal with it in educational institutions and neighborhood.
Role of families: As a child, whenever I visited my grandmother’s home, I saw a weird form of intolerance towards the working class, who could not mingle with the landlord families, had to sit on the floor and eat in their own plates, which had to be kept separate. Feudal masters looked down upon them just because they were poor and worked in their fields.
It is quite obvious that the children of such houses would grow up with the feeling that this kind of behavior was right and that is how it got embedded in social set up. It could never be rooted out despite the best of opportunities and laws. It still exists in a veiled form because certain people refuse to accept the underprivileged and the downtrodden as their equal. They share their beliefs and opinions with their children in their own narrow-minded way and the vicious circle continues.
Role of groups: There are fanatics who want to underline the importance of their own caste, region, race or religion. They create such groups to highlight the superiority of their race or religion. They keep raking the age-old traditions to prove that their ancestors had rightly created the class divide. Their constant endeavor is to sow the seeds of narrow-mindedness in the impressionable minds.
The atrocities of the past, the brutalities, which were inflicted by a certain group of people, are never buried. They are kept alive by talking about them so that the posterity remembers the prejudices, so that the youth can be instigated in the name of never ending vengeance.
Education, awareness and globalization has done little in eradicating intolerance, which is much more deep-rooted than we think. It is associated with the biased views of a parent, a teacher or a leader whose influence on growing children cannot be prevented.
Role of educational institutions: Children who study in minority schools and convents are conditioned to follow a set of rules, which contribute immensely to their development. They may not be told that others are lesser than them but the way their own beliefs, principles and philosophies are drilled, do create a subtle feeling of superiority for their own group.
Some of those who are confused try to rationalize those beliefs and principles but many more are easily carried away by the radical groups and that is how fringe elements get an impetus to keep themselves active and alive to exploit the sensitive matters.
Intolerance is also self-perpetuated and controlling this emotion is possible:
Learn to control anger and jealousy
Be sensitive to the hurts of others
Nurture kindness and compassion
Respect the opinion of others
Don’t feed doubt, vengeance and outrage
Intolerance is another form of discrimination. To my mind, they are synonyms.
Intolerance begins from homes, not hearts.
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