Monday, April 8, 2013

In the movie What the Bleep Do We Know, there is a sequence in which the natives of a Caribbean island are not able to see the ships of Columbus because they had never before experienced anything of the kind. I thought that a little far fetched. Didn’t the well being of those natives depend on their being aware of things in their environment? Surely they would notice strange ships near their shore.

The other day I was reading an incident in a book that gave me new insight on the matter. The book, The Forest People, was written by an anthropologist, Colin M. Turnbull, who had spent an extended period of time with the Pygmies of the Congo. The Pygmies inhabit a dense jungle area in which they are totally at home and in which they are competent and happy. In the book, Turnbull related an incident that occurred when he took a Pygmy who had become a friend of his out of his jungle home to another area of Africa containing broad plains, snow capped mountains and a large lake. Turnbull and the Pygmy, Kenge, stood on a high rise looking over a vista of grassland and lake. Turnbull pointed out a large fishing boat with a number of people in it floating on the distant lake. At first Kenge refused to believe it was anything of the kind. To him the craft appeared to be just a small piece of floating wood. When Kenge saw a herd of 150 buffalo some miles away on the plain, he took them to be insects. He could not recognize them as buffalo though he had seen buffalo before.

The writing by Turnbull made me revise my opinion of the ship sighting incident in What the Bleep Do We Know and about some other things. People can become so controlled by their environment that they cannot even recognize the existence of things that are foreign to it. Taken out of context, they may as well be invisible. This is true of physical objects. Could that also be true (perhaps more so) of things dealing with our mental and emotional functions, such as ideas and concepts? What about the concept of peace? I have long thought of peace as requiring a new mindset to bring it into existence, but I have been thinking of that as a matter of the rearranging of existing thought patterns. Perhaps it is much more than this. Perhaps we are so far from the concept of peace that we do not even recognize its existence when it presents itself. We cannot take meaningful steps toward achieving peace if we do not even recognize it when we see it.

This, perhaps, is the real problem behind the illusive nature of peace and this is the problem that must be solved before peace can be brought into being.

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