I’m a journalist. I’m supposed to be unbiased, presenting issues as they are without prejudice. In reality, this is not possible, not unless I actually see issues as they are. Very few of us do.
Most of us see this world filtered through our own preconceptions, shaded by another world we have constructed in our own minds, according to what we’ve been taught and our experiences. But we filter those experiences through those same preconceptions. We’ve been doing this for so long that we honestly have no idea what is real and what is something we — or someone else — just made up. We have added layer upon layer of filters, confusing the world as it is with our own thoughts, thoughts that we’ve made reality without question.
We’ve done this to protect ourselves from the real world, because we saw, at some point, that it was frightening and painful. Instead of engaging with it, we began to distance ourselves from it, disguising it as something else entirely, something of our own choosing, something more pleasant.
But bits of the real world have a way of slipping in. Bits of the real world, as well as bits of worlds other people have created. Because long ago we accepted that things were either good or bad, right or wrong, we categorize those bits of other worlds according to how well they fit … or don’t fit … with our own world. Right, or wrong. Good, or bad. Accept, or reject.
Because other worlds slip in from time to time, we see that the perfect world we have created is threatened from outside. We remain fearful, on guard, watching for the invasion that is sure to come and ready to do battle to protect our world from those others who are not like us, who we are certain want only to destroy us.
When we go into battle, we do so with every weapon available to us. We fight fiercely, because we are fighting for our lives … for our way of life. We don’t care about the humanity of our enemies, because they probably aren’t human at all. We imagine all sorts of things about them, we demonize them, call them evil … sinful.
Our world, the one we created, is the real world, we think. We think that because we are not aware of even the possibility of another way of seeing the world. We have surrounded ourselves with others who have created similar worlds to our own, our friends. Anything else is the enemy.
Good, or bad. Right, or wrong. Never what is.
To us, what is is whatever we imagine it to be. We don’t create the space to find out what is, we don’t have time for that. We’re far to busy building fortifications, reinforcing our own ideas, ideas that we’ve made as solid as any rock wall.
But ideas aren’t solid. They’re thoughts. Just simply … thoughts. Same-sex marriage will destroy “traditional” marriage. A thought. Black people are lazy and stupid. A thought. Christians hate other religions. A thought.
Just … thoughts. Not solid, and certainly not facts. We may believe them to be, and if we do, everything we think about gay people, black people, Christian people will be filtered through that bias. We will see what we expect to see — confirmation of our thoughts. Then we become even more convinced of our “rightness,” making those thoughts ever more solid.
And the cycle repeats.
We can break it, that cycle. But first we have to see that we’re not seeing at all.