Friday, May 17, 2013

I’ve been thinking about boxes lately, as in the kind of boxes that one is supposed to or not supposed to think outside of. They’ve shown up in my writing and as an almost daily reference in my life from a variety of sources. Another theme that has been prominent in my life is peace. That’s one I have affinity for and encourage.

Just recently, these two subjects came together for me in an unexpected way. I’ve been reading a book called The Human Potential for Peace by Douglas P. Fry, an anthropologist. In this book, Fry traces the tendencies for non violence and war in a number of societies and over millennia of the human presence on earth. In one of the final sections o the book he unites the concept of peace with my understanding of a box.

Fry states that a common contention is that war is an integral part of humans. It is a given fact and is therefore inevitable, or so goes the common belief goes. Not so, says Fry. Throughout the book he maintains that that popular belief is in error and not supported by scientific evidence. In the section to which I make reference, he states “. . . new modes of thinking are relevant to replacing war with other approaches to seeking security.”

In other words we are, according to Fry, thinking inside the box, one which we have constructed for ourselves. Fry quotes Einstein as saying in reference to the nuclear age “everything has changed, save our modes of thinking.”

What society regards as unchangeable—our propensity to wage war—has no basis in fact. This is what Fry argues throughout his book. It is only what we have become accustomed to, what we have made true simply because we, as a society or a people or as a planet, believe it to be true.

Apparently, we construct all sorts of boxes, from our own personal enclosures to large, national and international constructs. But no matter how large the structures may be, they all depend on the beliefs of those within the box for their longevity. In the end, our own personal boxes are what decide what stands and what fails. If enough individuals learn to think outside their own little individual boxes, the larger boxes of society, nations or the international community cannot hope to contain them.

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