Close Up of a Merged Israeli-Palestinian Flag

Language, in my mind, is the most powerful tool for shaping reality. These simple symbols hold within them life-altering power, whether it’s inspiring masses to war, quelling an uprising, scaring off a potential lover with sour conversation, or even gaining a potential lover with words that resonate.

One such collection of symbols that helped reshape my reality was put together by a man many of us know: Kurt Vonnegut. 

I read his book, Cat’s Cradle, during very formative years of my life, and it was inside this book I discovered a word he coined that revolutionized my view on reality and the culture of humanity.

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Wikipedia goes on to describe the Granfalloon technique as:

The granfalloon technique is a method of persuasion in which individuals are encouraged to identify with a particular granfalloon or social group.[1] The pressure to identify with a group is meant as a method of securing the individual’s loyalty and commitment through adoption of the group’s symbols, rituals, and beliefs.

This one made-up word, devised via a collection of arbitrary symbolic shapes we call letters, forced me into rumination on the meaning of the words that were so common in my day to day life.

Ten years later I found myself overwhelmed, drowning in the news of more racism, more shootings, and two terrorist attacks that took place in Paris and Beirut. Feeling helpless to stop such asinine hatred, I yearned to give the perpetrators of these actions a valid reason to stop their disgusting treatment of their fellow humans; I yearned to give them a life philosophy seeded by Vonnegut and cultivated by years of personal reflection. And since I know of no better medium through which information can travel, I now present to you my logical breakdown of said philosophy:

Let us start with the natural world and a few important realizations. You see, nature doesn’t have national boundaries. It also doesn’t have religious tenants—no list of evils and wrong-doings, no list of lessons for how you must live to be divine. Nature doesn’t know good from evil, for nature cannot be good nor evil. Each individual fragment can only be honest to the whims of the chaotic sphere it shares.

And so it is the same for humanity. Humankind, a creature of the same biosphere, spawned by that same biosphere, is no different than the dolphin or the rat, the squirrel or the dog; humankind does not have access to some secret instructional manual that the rest of the cosmos is barred from. Our consciousness does not imbue us with visions of a secret element written upon Gaia that is only visible to our eyes.

The unique feature humankind does have, however, is concepts—symbols that define that which is around us: earth, air, fire, water—substantiated things we can see and feel like trees and wind, like flames and rain. But with these concepts come another gift: imagination.

Something we’ve unfortunately bastardized. 

We let our imaginative minds-eyes implement fictional prisons upon our species. We used imaginary symbols to create concepts for things that had no basis in reality, things that the natural world does not possess. We created illusions that we cling to, illusions that divide us.

In our fear of the unknown, in our need to understand, we created symbols for things we had no evidence for, things which don’t exist, unnecessary things: like nations and gods–invisible lines and invisible men.

And when a child is born, we force upon them the symbols of our ancestors, these symbols that are nothing but illusions. We pull the veil of illusions over their eyes, hiding from them the truth of free-thought and appreciation, of unity. 

We give our children lies that make them think they are different from others. We tell them they are American, that they are Christians. But there is no such thing as America in nature, no labeled land that imbues its animals with favor from the cosmos. There is only a piece of land. There is no such thing as the religious Gods we kill for. There is only a need to control and define that which we can’t explain.

And so we have children who feel this inherent wrongness, because even indoctrinated our subconscious sees how silly it is that different colored flags and fairytales keep us from the truth: that we are all the same, born into random pieces of geography.

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And so in our lust to explain existence, we’ve built boxes around people, gave them reasons to be proud and hateful, to feel an inherent wrongness with existence. We’ve failed to use basic logic to understand that where we were born means nothing at all in terms of who we are or who we should be. Being born on that tiny strip of land near the big body of water around a community that made up imaginary symbols for things that don’t exist doesn’t mean you are a Muslim or a Syrian. No more than it makes me an American or a Christian. I am human, like you, a perfectly clean slate of curiosity and love, no different than any other baby of any other skin color from any other place in the world. We are simply animals in an ecosystem, and as we know, animals do not have nations or religions.

( The above is a podcast to further explain the dangers of our titles and labels.)

But humans are trapped inside their ego and their need to be right. We have this innate need to have our existence validated by having people agree with our definition of reality, by having people confirm that our definitions of symbols are the right ones. All because we’re afraid to not have control in a chaotic world. And so in our egotistical lust to have the right definitions, we let our species be divided by definitions for things that don’t actually exist, things that don’t actually have a bearing on reality. There is no Muhammad, there is no Jesus, there is no Krishna or Easter Bunny or Zeus—there are only these symbolic stories that we used in the past in order to come to terms with the grandeur and miraculousness of our consciousness, and with the lack of science and understanding to explain it. There is no American or French or African or Australian; there are only people who happened to be influenced by the environment of a certain geographical location.

 

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We need to kill our ego if we are to evolve; we need to realize that our definitions are only opinions—not fact—and that the greatest gift we can offer each other is the most vulnerable and honest definitions we’ve discovered for ourselves, as well as a constant willingness to listen earnestly to the definitions of others so that we might use their perspectives to help sharpen our own appreciation of reality.

And in this way we will become dynamic and cultured—freethinkers who find love and acceptance in the differences we all share rather than indoctrinated and outdated bigots who want to kill each other because our imaginary symbols look different.

So I ask you, detach from your illusory symbols. Do not let them divide us or make you favor your definition more than anothers. And do let them define your world with hatred and ignorance. Instead, define your existence with curiosity and love. Share and grow.

And if you are a parent, for the sake of humanity, do not brainwash your child with your own definitions. Kill your ego and give them the knowledge that they will be accepted no matter what definition they choose; let them know that their true purpose is to be curious, to appreciate, and to love. Let them know that you will accept them, no matter how different they are. And then, hopefully, when they rule the world, they will accept each other, no matter how different they all are. 

1 COMMENT

  1. Boundless appreciation for this post. It’s amazing how much death and destruction is wreaked in the name of symbols.

    Someone did point out to me that church attendance is at an all-time low among our generation. As more information is disseminated and traded, as our world becomes increasingly inter-connected, I think this trend will continue.

    Religion is a band-aid for things we have forgotten how to do as humans: to have community, to support one another, to form tribes. If we can just learn how to do those things on our own, religion will die out of its own accord.

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