When I step back from the fray of ‘daily’ life, with its current menu of sleaze and corruption, there are times when I wonder how on earth humanity will find our way out of the mess we have either created ourselves or have been forced to live-within by the small-minded social thinking we are subjected to. As an imaginative woman, I am not short of ideas that, on a bad day, I think should apply to all us forgetting, as seems to be all-too-frequent in white culture, that the experience of others is different from my own. This is healthy because it reminds me how little I truly know and how ignorant I really am, which is all the more important when I am busy telling my community they must listen to those voices we have silenced. Whilst such realisations are embarrassing or shameful in the moment, the value of such learning cannot be measured. I had one of these yesterday.
It is very hard to live in the UK at present without getting angry at what is being done to ordinary people by our government which cares not how many people suffer or die in order to achieve its fiscal ambitions. Everything in life is reduced to money; held by the few, denied to the many, and with the occasional tiny ‘aperture of escape’ dangled in front of the unthinking masses, via TV, as a way of implying that talent results in success. I don’t watch television anymore but I see the damage done to those who do. If there is one thing that triggers my anger, it is witnessing this harm being inflicted upon those who don’t understand what is actually being done to them. Yesterday’s out-crop of sleaze had such an effect, so I climbed on my twitter soap-box and ranted about it.
Afterwards, a fellow tweep asked me to read their latest blog. Still full of the self-righteous fervour that afflicts those on soap-boxes, I was less than graceful in my immediate response (I’m really sorry, Inky) but I did read the blog. It was a humbling lesson for me, not least because a part of me believes I really ought to know better by now. Inky writes about the experience of being sightless in a world that judges the blind.
However, the hurt that I have caused people is in no way comparable to the hurt that I have been caused and am still being caused by society as a result of what I am. That will only disappear when I can feel truly comfortable talking about my sight problems (and know that people will actually listen and take notice instead of their eyes glazing over and my words being ignored).
In many ways, her words could easily have been written by me using problems other than sight. I know the experience of not being heard and eyes glazing over only too well and I had come so very close to doing exactly the same thing to her.
What such experiences teach us are our limitations and it triggered reflections on what is really meant by blindness. There is so much to our world that I am ‘blind’ to. It may catch my eye momentarily but my capacity to ‘see’ is switched-off and my attention slides off into other things I regard as ‘more important’. This often means that when the subject or person steps into visibility within my perception, I am shaken out of my complacency and into the discomfort of growing, which is exactly what Inky did. It wasn’t that I hadn’t noticed the event she discusses – I most certainly had. The harm within the viewpoint she was challenging had certainly impacted upon another ‘blind’ tweep I follow. I had witnessed @WelshWallace turn away from Twitter that night as a result of the mind-numbing stupidity of others whose careless comments about blindness must have impacted upon her very obvious talent as a sculptress. I may have noticed her turning away, but I did not ‘see’ it – in that moment, the person who was truly blind was me and my ‘disability’ had nothing to do with sightlessness. When I shared the blog with her, ”Welsh’ affirmed Inky’s experience completely – there was nothing she disagreed with.
Or am I just a stupid fool in thinking that equality means that everybody gets an equal chance to be themselves and achieve their goals in the way that best suits them?
This is not the first time it’s happened to me because it is the nature of the society I live within – all of us are affected by this casual blindness, especially in the West amongst us white folks, because it is inherent within its structure at all levels. It’s the outcome of living within a dualistic reality where perception is split into opposites and we ‘choose’, in our own minds, who and what belongs where, incarcerating others in the prison of our choices.
Here’s the thing: I know this already! I passed the theory part of this test years ago – or so I thought until I was presented with clear evidence to the contrary. Suddenly, all my ego-ideas of who I am collapse around me as I’m faced with irrefutable evidence of the opposite. It is extremely uncomfortable in the moment but as a spur to grow, these are lessons beyond value. It is simply not possible to grow up within white Western ‘culture’ and not be affected by it – anyone who claims otherwise is fooling themselves and misleading others. Those of us who, at least, try to think differently are inevitably going to experience this disillusion-of-self because experiencing it is the only true way to learn.
So how do we manage when we find ourselves in this situation? In my reality, we learn! For example, my dualistic white culture apparently seeks to subtract this bit or that part from our corrupted body politic in the quest for some kind of false homogeneity through the casual, thoughtless use of labels. As this is one end of a polarity, then authentic learning ought to add to our experience resulting in a diversity of profoundly different realities, as our physicists are beginning to suggest. What’s more – there are living peoples on our planet who have already absorbed this knowledge into their culture and world-view.
It would also suggest that we might be living in a “multiverse”—a universe that is much bigger than was once thought and in which the laws of physics take different forms in different places.
How does a woman, steeped to the eyeballs in contemporary white culture, approach these concepts with a healthy-enough attitude that they inform, at the very least, my own world-view? Today, my advice to myself is to know that I am truly blind. Why? For as long as I believe I know a great deal about diversity, I am blinded by my own ideas because there is no room for authentic difference – by filling myself up with self-importance, I eclipse the multiverses evolving within the peoples around me. When I do that, I become a product of this prevailing culture apparently intent upon destroying all evidence of diversity, harming myself as well as others. If I can’t find out of this trap, then there’s every chance the problem may become permanent!
During the 1960′s and well into the following two decades, a branch of pop psychology developed which began to make some very speculative assumptions about the specific roles the two hemispheres of our brain play in our cognitive awareness and functioning. The general understanding developed that the left hemisphere of the brain was essentially analytical and concerned with processes and quantitative evaluation, while the right hemisphere of the human brain was where the artists and dreamers resided. This is a very simplistic understanding; and in recent years, imaging research has shown that both hemispheres share more or less the same attributes, and both can equally process the same cognitive functionality. However, and this is crucial, there is a level of redundancy in both hemispheres.
The growing speculation for the need for two (asymmetrical) brain hemispheres is to perform two acts of awareness. The left brain is devoted to specific tasks and objectives, while the right brain acts as a kind of peripheral awareness. There has to be a kind of background seeing, as well as immediate attention to the task at hand. Think of an early human on the side of a riverbank trying to spear a salmon—the left brain would be devoted to this task. In order to maintain awareness of the environment and possible dangers therein, the right hemisphere of the human brain is ‘looking’ out for predators such as a saber-tooth tiger seeking an easy meal in the form of a prehistoric human who is completely concentrated on catching a fish. Hence, why the right brain is often associated with insight, intuition and noetic realisations. Which is why artists tend to have an ability to see changes in their environment and social conditions before the rest of the population. Their ‘background vision’ is more highly developed due to them using both hemispheres of their brain for the purpose they were intended.
The left brain, on the other hand, has been shown to be highly narcissistic and with an inflated sense of its own worth and status. The left hemisphere sees no problem with itself, and this has been shown in stroke patients who lost the use of the right hemisphere of their brain. Operating in left-brain mode only, they assumed they were perfectly fine until they attempted to get out of bed only to discover they were paralysed on one side.
Between the left and right hemispheres of the human brain is the corpus callosum, which is a thin membrane of nerve fibers which separates the two halves and has now been shown that rather than being a communicative link between the two brain halves, it acts more like a buffer, with the left brain in Western people having a desire to literally switch off the neural activity in the right hemisphere. This is one meme which Betty Edwards was correct about in her book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain—the left hemisphere is a bully. In overly logical and analytical individuals, fMRI scans have shown the left brain actually inhibits the right brain—via the corpus callosum nerve fibers—from offering its contribution to the entire cognitive process. This state of right hemisphere nullification is where the debunker and the hardcore skeptics are trapped and can never leave—in their intolerant and highly narcissistic left hemisphere—using the two percent of neural wiring into their right hemisphere in order to shut it off. Ordering the right hemisphere to cease activity while the left side of the brain saves the world from ‘morons’ who dare question official government press releases or the mandates from any authority figure or bureaucratic institutions.
Along with this, their intuition and ‘background awareness’ are likewise diminished. (link)
So how to go about addressing this very serious problem creatively and compassionately?
The first step, I suspect, would be for me to get a realistic grasp of my place in Creation which, in my case, would have to include an awareness of my ignorance. Measured against the rainbow wisdom of Indigenous people, my knowledge of true reality seems to score about 0.005 to their 8 or 9 (bear in mind that these are my measures alone). To catch up with such astonishing wisdom is probably going to take me more than a dozen lifetimes and by the time I arrive, these multiversed souls will have been long gone. In theory, I could argue that this is a very good thing to know – that there exists a living ‘Road to Wisdom’ upon which my spirit can travel, grow and evolve – but as I have already illustrated, theory and practice are very different criaturas! What can I expect on this journey through Spirit?
Well, if present experience is anything to go by, I’m going to remain an ignoramus for a very long time and the path will be strewn with my many mistakes, both embarrassing and shameful, as I finally begin to appreciate the wonder of Mystery. Each and every spark of life carries a unique aspect that can only be understood on its own terms, not mine. For as long as my perceptions are seduced by this dark side of white culture, I will be as callously destructive towards the diversity of others as the worst fascist who ever lived. I have to accept that, in this lifetime, I am just beginning the road back to health and its going to be a very long journey.
So is such a rocky, difficult road worth taking? If I look to my dreams of a fair and healthy human society occupying our proper place on a miraculously living blue planet travelling an endless multiverse of existence/experience, then my answer has to be ‘Yes’. Nevertheless, such a journey will need to be taken one step at a time, with all the detours, blockages and dead-ends I have already experienced in this lifetime.
Where do I start? With the reality I experience through my relationship with everything that is ‘not-me’. For example: at present, I am blind to the experience and wisdom of life without physical ‘sight’ (bearing in mind this could easily change), so in opening myself to the shared experience of sightlessness will introduce me to the ‘Mystery’ of otherness. Within this, there will be information I would never even conceive of from my own limited perspective, together with what this evokes in all of us. I will learn, through experience rather than theory, what it takes to be a tiny part of Creation in healthy human form, with all my failings and ecstasies, alongside all my fellow travelers. In doing so, I will find my true place in this multiverse of multiverses because I belong within it.
Throughout human history, we have hinted to ourselves repeatedly that the universe we dwell within is ‘One’; a Great Mystery, both manifest and Spirit, some call God. Perhaps – I don’t know – the ‘stinking gift’ of white culture is our reminder of what occurs when we forget and commit hubris by believing we know better than the astonishing reality we actually do dwell within.
In the meantime, I can give thanks to all those who shared their time and patience educating this foolish traveler with the wisdom they have acquired. None of us will ever ‘know’ the Great Mystery but we can share what we have learned along our life paths and patch-work together an idea 0f what we could become as we step into our unknown future.