Change of attitude
Amanuel sahle I have decided to write this article in English taking into consideration some readers whose grasp of Tigrinya is a bit too shaky to completely understand what I have written over the past few
I have decided to write this article in English taking into consideration some readers whose grasp of Tigrinya is a bit too shaky to completely understand what I have written over the past few months.
I think that in order to effect a change of attitude, one has to make a change of consciousness as well. Each of us lives within a certain level of consciousness from which we appreciate and evaluate the external world. All of us tend to stick to that world which we ourselves have fashioned or which others have helped us to create, and we pass judgments on other external worlds from our own vantage point in which we feel safe and secure.
But there are many levels of consciousness which may end up in the knowledge of our inner selves. To know oneself is like grasping the ultimate knowledge which means being free from the self or ego and uniting with the absolute. Know thyself, used to say Socrates. To really know oneself is to know creation and its ultimate purpose.
There are infinite levels of consciousness and these levels end up in the Omega point, as Teilhard de Chardin stated in his philosophy. The Omega point is the Absolute. Hence, knowing oneself deeply or completely is like knowing the Absolute or reaching the Omega point.
However, we are too lazy or afraid to even try to pass to the next and the nearest upper level of consciousness, for it looks like a path less trodden by men and nobody wants to step into something that one hardly knows. We say, as it were, to ourselves: only fools jump where angels fear to tread.
The seafarers who accompanied Columbus in his discovery of America feared that the journey might take them to the great unknown, and since they thought that the earth was flat, they feared that they might reach the edge and fall over to their doom. The fear of the unknown has always haunted the minds of men, both the brave and the coward.
In the past people thought the world stood still and that other heavenly bodies circled around it in what might have been seen at the time as an act of worship: the earth was at the center of everything, the suns the planets and the faraway stars simply circumambulated around it as worshippers would circumambulate around temples or holy relics in ritual ceremony. If the earth was the center of everything, they thought, so was man and so were the principles and norms that prevailed at the time and which conducted the affairs of men.
If you stop thinking, the world and all it contains, including its laws and norms will always seem to you to be standing still and that the other heavenly bodies, or in this case, social laws and norms, simply revolved around it as a sign of submission to its immovable laws.
Not only that, but you would also think that the heavenly bodies described perfect circles around the earth, which meant that laws were followed very seriously indeed.
It went on in this manner in the past until some inquisitive mind came up with the daring question: what if all the visible heavenly bodies revolved around the sun? Including the earth, of course! And what if the paths described by these heavenly bodies were not perfect but elliptical…….?
We can therefore safely say that the person who asked such questions must have moved up to the next level of consciousness. He has broken open the door of the box in which he hibernated for so many years and stepped into a new world or level of consciousness.
Things around you will be judged in accordance to the world you have created in your inner self. You believe that what you have accepted as right by tradition and consensus is right, and you think that laws are eternal and fixed and none but heretics can dare to challenge what has been given as infallible and enduring by nature or its Maker.
In order to experience a change of attitude, one must try to think critically of the things that one takes for granted, for knowledge is an infinite journey to the absolute and one should not hold one’s mind hostage to the relative bliss that comes through ignorance.
The mind evolves like anything else. Nothing is static, but everything is in continual flux. And what makes the mind to change courses is the critical thinking that is inherent in it: Why? How? Why not….?
We should come out of our existence inside our cozy boxes. We look through the pin hole in the box and we don’t like what we see through that hole. But what lies beyond is the reality from which we preferred to recoil and remain in our comfortable zone.
As the universe is infinite so is knowledge. If Columbus as a young man had listened to his mother’s plea not to talk to strangers and not to venture outside his beloved town, if he had succumbed to the threats and scorns of dignitaries and churchmen and remained tied to old beliefs and superstitions, if he had been cowered by the shadow of the Inquisition and had not stood up to the mockeries of the learned at the University of Salamanca, he would never have taken the risky journey westward, and America would have never been discovered, at least for a long time to come, and we wouldn’t have new nations which served and still serve as havens to many refugees seeking freedom and justice from all over the world.
The most frightening journey, to my knowledge, is not a journey through barbaric lands and hostile deserts or jungles infested with all kinds of ferocious and poisonous beasts, but a mental journey made within the mind in search of knowledge and enlightenment. Only the valiant souls and fearless minds can make the journey. The faint of heart and mind prefer to remain in their comfy boxes.
I remember the time when after discussing with a friend about certain social issues and belief systems and after trying to open his mind to many of his unsettling questions, he became so much agitated that he couldn’t sleep the following night. He balked at my daring and unorthodox and sometimes bizarre explanations and refused to argue about things that he considered sacred or taboo.
He wanted to remain in his cozy box enjoying the view through his pin hole from time to time just to assure himself that the safest place for him was in the box. In that box he felt secure and when my words shook up the box, he didn’t like it.
There was an incident which made me to wonder about the narrowness or pettiness of man’s mind. It was this: when in 1968 a certain oriental cleric heard that the Americans had landed on the moon, he committed suicide, for according to his belief, the moon was a symbol of divinity, off-limits for any profane intervention. And when Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod, some churchmen argued that it was against the plan of God, for if lightning rod could save people from being zapped to ashes, how then can God punish the evildoers who deserved 50,000 volts to flow through their nerves for the crimes they committed…..
Such people never trained their minds to think critically but left it to wallow in the mire of superstition and ignorance. They refuse to tread the path of scientific discovery and hinder others from reaching the shores of knowledge and certitude.
Many of my young Eritrean compatriots seem to have abandoned the art of critical thinking and blindly imitate what has been repeatedly shoved into their ears by the leadership of an autocratic regime. Add to this the decline of education in Eritrea and you have youngsters who have stopped to think because the state has taken the task of thinking for them.
They have readymade answers for everything and they gloat over their borrowed and untested knowledge. What else can they do? They came from a regime where to think is tantamount to rebelion. Such is their state of affairs that they arrive in foreign lands comfortable inside their boxes from which any contemplation of escape is considered betrayal and treason.
Heroism is not simply standing up against guns and mortars or tanks; it is to stand up against your vain imaginings and idle fancies. The biggest fight in this earthly plane is the fight waged in the battle of the mind where the armies are battalions of critical thinking and the weapons are logic and sound argument. The enemy is superstition, blind belief and fundamentalism in all its aspects. If you lose in this battle you will remain locked in your box, but if you win, you will pass to the next level of consciousness from which you can see new horizons stretching far into infinity and vast possibilities of success leading to an even higher levels of consciousness.
As one continues to ascend along these upward spiraling circles of consciousness, one feels freer and freer until one begins to encompass the universe and the mystery and the wisdom enshrined in it.