Is humanity itself (and I'm definitely including myself here, although others might debate the validity of my inclusion) fundamentally, at its coure, the equivalent of Woody on Cheers? Or Barbarino on Welcome Back Kotter? Or Bull on Night Court?
Are we all, at our fundamental core, way down deep, just plain and simply stoooooooooooopid?
Sometimes I think so.
Sometimes I don't.
But sometimes I do, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that I've been around a little bit these last few years. I've been to Hiroshima. I've checked out the killing fields. I've taught former heads of Toshiba, and Cambodian orphans, and been almost robbed by a motodop at midnight in Phnom Penh, and ridden a double-decker bus in Hong Kong, and had a personal tour of director Akira Kurosawa's former film studio by his long-time art director (and even got to hold the actual mask worn by the dude who plays Godzilla). There are many, countless, untold thousands of things I haven't done, and still hope to do, but I have certainly seen and heard and felt and thought about much, much more than I had ever anticipated. I used to think that life could be learned through a book; now I know that's not true.
I also know some other things, too.
The variety of life. The variety of people making their way through that life, this life, our life that we all share. It's mind-boggling, it really is. You can tell yourself all you want that you are a sane, rational, clear-headed individual -- but when you are stuck in a foreign land where you do not know a single soul, and you can't speak the language, and you are far from home, if that home still exists, you will be confronted with the essential fragility of who we are and what we think that we can be. It's not a pretty picture, or an enviable experience, but it's definitely a human one, and I recommend -- if for no other reason that it will allow you to feel like an immigrant, alone and forgotten, and that has to be a good thing, a good feeling, I'm sure of it.
The variety, though, is what leads to the questions. Questions that can't be answered.
Are we all the same, us humans? I guess so, yes, I think so, but after living in Japan for four years, and in Cambodia for almost two, I can also that there are differences, and these differences arise from living in groups, and these groups are ethnically and nationally oriented, and there is very little that we, as humans, can do that to rectify this imbalance.
Do we need to rectify it?
I don't think so, actually; perhaps that's too strong a word. What we need is balance. What we need is perspective.
Perhaps this goes back to my earlier post on the pope's passing (scroll down if you're interested).
We all want to believe what we believe. That's fine. All well and good. And we're in a certain stage of civilization's development where we have now, thankfully, accepted that other people's beliefs do not necesarily match our own. In other words, you are Jewish and free to perform your rituals and observe your holidays and do what it is that the people in your faith do; I am Muslim (for example; I haven't converted -- yet), and I practice my faith, and we agree that while our faiths our separate, they are also equal.
That's the theory.
Much of the world if not most of the world is composed of varying civilizations that offer unique and singular takes on religion and culture; I'm sure Iran and Japan share many things, but there's a lot that's different, too.
And yet our cultures breed us to believe, deep deep deep down, that we are right.
Think about it. The way we talk, the way we dress, the way we eat, the political opinions we hold -- our culture gives them to us.
Recently (and by 'recent' I refer to the last, oh, two hundred years) things are shifting because people are moving, travelling from one culture to another for work and for play, cross-pollinating their species, merging cultures. There is a fertilization of ideas and outlooks that is taking place; I recognize this. Things are changing for the good, I believe. In part.
A roundabout, long-winded way to get to my point (and it's debatable that I have one), which is: People are good and decent and kind, yes, but we are, I've come to conclude, also more than a little stoooopid. We harbor our resentments. We root for the home team simply because we live in the same city as the team; we root for our country against their country simply because we live where we live. We go around proclaiming that our country is the best country in the world to live, while dozens, if not hundreds of other countries'citizens shout the same repetitive mantra. We worship the faiths of our family simply because they told us to.
We instinctively align ourselves with others who feel the same way that we do, the way a drunk uses a lamppost -- for support, not illumination.
It thus serves a purpose, this lamppost does -- but not the one it was intended for.
Maybe that's what my fears come down to.
We, as humans, absolutely crave support, not illumination; it's what gets us through the night. We listen to those who will tell us what we want to hear. We listen to the radio stations that play what we like. We watch the shows that confirm our own conceptions of the world. We approach life based on the models that have been formed by us, or by what we form ourselves. We are firm, and unflexing, and do not want to change. We are stubborn.
So are we stooooopid?
I guess so.
But I take consolation in the fact that Woody on Cheers, Barbarino on Kotter and Bull on Night Court were mere supporting players. They leaned on others for support -- and if those leads, those Sam Malones and Mr.Kotters and Judge Harrys did not offer total illumination, they at least provided a little bit of light.
Which is maybe all we can hope for.