Omg what do I write about
Hmm okay I just have to clear my mind and start typing
This week’s blog post is a story! Why? I couldn’t think of something else right now. Sorry, but we’re all stuck with this. I wanted something exciting, as well. Oh well, life goes on.
It’s actually more of a recount of an event which changed my view of things a bit.
2010 – the year of the glorious FIFA world cup. The shadow council had allowed it to be held in South Africa, giving it the opportunity to stack profit on profit until the end of the tournament. This isn’t about the world cup anyway. In 2010 I was 17, turning 18, and in my last year of high school. During the world cup, my English class was studying The English Teacher by R. K. Narayan. it was an okay book. The story was simple and the language was easy to read. Nothing really stood out to me.
Nothing really stood out to me, that is, until we finished reading it and began analysing it. The story follows Krishna, a teacher in a city college, as he learns to care for his wife and young daughter who come to stay with him from his home town. Krishna really enjoys being a part of his little family but one day his wife falls ill and she eventually dies. Krishna is stricken with grief but stays strong for the sake of his daughter. Krishna is eventually enlightened by the headmaster of his daughter’s preschool who has an interesting take on life and is able to show Krishna how to appreciate being alive again. That’s pretty much the gist of it.
One of the motifs in that book is tabula rasa. That’s Latin for blank slate. It’s the idea that no one is born with knowledge, experiences or prejudice. The headmaster uses that to explain the curiosity of children and how they have no preconceived notions and therefore they explore and learn by playing. I was definitely that child who didn’t realise that heaters are hot until I touched one. I think we all would have been that child. Anyway, the blank slate was important in that book because learning about it from the headmaster marked the beginning of Krishna’s transformation. Krishna was depressed about the death of his wife and was full of regret and anger, but he had to forget all that and leave it behind to begin the next part of his life – taking care of his daughter.
For Krishna, who was haunted by the experience of losing his wife, nothing would allow him to move forward. Nothing but the tabula rasa. He had to wipe the grief off his slate in order to make room for other feelings. Ultimately, this allowed him to move on and enjoy life again. He could once again feel joy.
That idea stuck with me back then. The effect of wiping your slate clean and making space for other feelings and experiences felt like something which would totally be handy. It honestly felt like a better way to move on when shit hits the fan, and I think I’ve mastered it. Thinking back on that now, I guess I read a book which increased my emotional intelligence by who knows how much.
As we age, the blank slate we’re born with fills up with experiences, observations, feelings and biases. These filters and conceptions form our perspective and therefore our reality. If you’ve had a bad experience with a certain food, or a certain place, or certain people, then there is a large chance your reality will be one where you are biased against that food, place or people. Regardless of facts in favour of things I am biased against, I’m just not very keen on them.
Like I hate bananas. I really hate them. They’re great sources of potassium – sure. They fill you up really well – yup okay. Apparently you’ll never cramp if you eat ’em – alright. Good for them, but I will never ever be caught dead eating a banana. I’m waiting for those devil fruit to become extinct. Why? I just had a bad experience when I was little. And that’s been enough to put me off them for life.
Maybe we’d be better off if we could enter a state of tabula rasa on demand. Imagine being able to wipe away some of your preconceptions at will. Well, I don’t think there’s anything really stopping us from achieving that… except the fact that it’s ridiculously hard to dismiss your own preconceptions. This is like ignoring a gut feeling – it feels wrong to tell yourself “It’s just a dark alley.” It feels wrong to tell yourself “That person there with a knife is not intimidating.” In the end, your perceptions are there to act as shortcuts so you don’t have to think through a situation before deciding whether it’s good or bad. There’s an essence of that primal fight or flight instinct here where if you can’t instinctively identify a circumstance which could turn ugly, well… it gets ugly.
What am I trying to say? Something about us being taught to judge. Something about us being taught to pick a side. Something about us being born pure with nothing but curiosity to fill in our blank slate.