"Prejudice does not solely affect individuals or groups; it can permeate an entire culture and shape behaviours towards other cultures. In fact, prejudice subtly undermines human relationships, sometimes in an abrupt manner. It is our prejudices and ideals that deprive us of the capacity and energy necessary to think, observe, and thus discover for ourselves what lies behind the confusion, unhappiness, terror, and violence that exists within us, as human beings, and in the world.
Why, after millions of years of evolution, have humans (men and women) become so violent, insensitive, destructive, and supportive of increasingly advanced and devastating technological progress?
All of us, as human beings, experience suffering.
There is anguish, uncertainty, loneliness; there is insecurity, jealousy, greed, envy, pain, and sometimes beauty and compassion, almost forgotten.
Sooner or later, however, it becomes necessary to delve deep within ourselves and understand who we are. Questions can be daunting.
We often prefer to avoid introspective confrontations and shirk from taking responsibility for who we are by placing blame on others and external events. Every choice made - or not made, everything that happens to us or that we make happen - contributes to shaping our identity.
We like to believe that we have full control over our lives, but in reality, we are influenced by every piece of information that filters into our minds, much of which comes from experiences beyond our control. Frequently, our actions are instinctively guided by emotions.
But what are emotions and thoughts?
We think based on our abilities, energy, experiences, and knowledge. Others may think differently based on their own experiences and conditioning.
We have been programmed on biological, physical, and mental levels. We've been taught to be Catholics, Protestants, racists, Italians, English, and so on - to believe, to have faith, to adhere to rituals and dogmas; to be nationalists, to wage war, and to be complicit in human crimes. We've been educated in prejudice, to view others with suspicion, sometimes with hatred, to the point of violence. Wherever we are, we seek warning signs and strive to keep everyone at a distance. The 'other' is considered dangerous; anything different from us instills fear.
But what is diversity if not a source of richness? What is dialogue if not a path to personal growth? Can we self-observe? Who are we?
The turning point lies in our consciousness.
Human consciousness is universal; there is no 'my' consciousness or 'your' consciousness. When we understand that 'I' and 'others' are the same, that we are humanity, we break free from individualism and move beyond the divisions of 'I' and 'you,' 'us' and 'them.'
Our consciousness also possesses a deeper aspect that harbours our fears. As human beings, we've always endured pain. We've been conditioned to perceive ourselves as individuals separate from everything else.
Even religions have led us to believe that we have souls distinct from one another. This is the crisis we are experiencing today: we've been educated and continue to learn from these programs.
So, what is thought? How does the mind work?
All of us think, and thought can manifest through words, gestures, looks, or bodily movements. Words enable us to communicate. Thought is responsible for all forms of cruelty: the brutality of wars, killings, terror, bombings, unhappiness, and hatred. Thought is also the creator of marvelous structures, captivating poems, mesmerising sounds; it is the architect of technological advancements, including computers, with their remarkable capacity to learn and surpass human thinking.
But what does it mean to think?
Thinking, as Jiddu Krishnamurti asserts, is a response, a reaction based on memory. Without memory, we would be unable to think. Memory is imprinted in the brain as knowledge, the product of experience. This is how our brain operates: experience precedes knowledge, and knowledge is stored in the brain, forming memory. Thought then emanates from memory.
Our actions are a reflection of our thoughts. Our thoughts shape who we are. And through our actions, we learn and reinforce this cycle. This cycle becomes knowledge, and we repeat the same pattern indefinitely. This is how thought functions. Thought has a mechanical nature.
Thought often claims, 'I am free to function.' However, thought is never free because it relies on knowledge, which is inherently limited due to its connection with time. Time, knowledge, thought, and action constitute the cycle within which we exist. Thought is limited, and consequently, any action guided by thought is also limited. Yet, every limitation of thought inevitably creates division and conflict.
Human beings are in conflict with themselves. We all are.
Our lives, from birth to death, consist of a series of attempts and conflicts. Efforts to escape this predicament often lead to new conflicts. Thus, we live and die in an unending struggle without ever pondering the root of this conflict. The root is thought itself, as thought is inherently limited. Now, please do not ask, 'How can I stop thinking?' That's not the point. The point is to observe and understand the nature of thought.
What are our thoughts? Why are we afraid of others? Are we free from fears, conditioning, and prejudices?
While we cannot avoid everything that happens to us, we can change how we perceive and interpret these events. Prejudices are the chains forged by ignorance to keep people apart. We can begin by observing ourselves, accepting our uniqueness as free and imperfect human beings.
The question I pose is this: Are we truly human?"
from the project "The Theatre of the Mind"
© Loredana Denicola 2016-2020