Last Christmas I decided to give everyone in my family a book which challenges their believes. I gave my mom and dad books about entrepreneurship, an uncle who is rather pessimist a book about the good things happening in the world. The gifts I was excited about the most were the two books for my traditionalist uncle and aunt.
Both of them are conservative catholics. They have firm believes about a lot of things, including abortion, the LGTBQ+ community, drugs and the role of religion in life. The problem is those believes have weak foundations. They are only repeating to others and themselves what their figures of authority tell them. Given that, I wanted them to hear other voices, better voices, voices with better arguments, more knowledge of the real world and hopefully more intelligent. I gave him Sophie's world by Jostein Gaarder and “Las mujeres que luchan se encuentran”: una guía sobre feminismo latinoamericano by Catalina Ruiz-Navarro. Both books are controversial and would definitely defy their belief system. I was really excited to give them the books and then discuss them together.
I gave them the books on December 24th. Just yesterday (December 31st) I spent new year's eve with them. To my surprise, one book was not even taken out of its plastic. The other was piled up bellow a bunch of papers, unopened. I was sad when I saw this. It felt like talking to a wall. I felt like I lost the money. I could have purchased those books for myself.
I don't think I will ever buy books to someone who I know neither wants to read hear other voices nor actually reads many books. On the other hand, this incident makes me think about how wiling we are to challenge our believes and discover that we are wrong. Being wrong feels weird, it hurts our ego and makes us feel inadequate. How often do I challenge my own ideas? Do I enjoy it?
I believe hearing other people's voices, understanding other points of view and experimenting outside the comfort zone of our own logical arguments can lead to an awakening. We can realize that we are wrong, that someone else's truth is valid, but more importantly, we discover that our reality is built and shaped by the clash and collaboration of multiple and diverse ideas. To see the whole picture is impossible, but we can be aware of such limitation when making judgments.
The problem is today's world does not allow for many moments or spaces for such experimentation of other believes. Social media has built an echo chamber around us in its pursue of engaged time. News and a lot of journalism have consolidated into cohesive outcasts of the same point of view, instead of a practical application of logic, history and art. Even in some countries education is controlled so that people do not learn about facts that might trigger certain ideas. The worst of all, even people who are aware of the many different points of view that exist decide to avoid learning about them. They ridicule and satanize them, instead of checking for themselves what all the fuss is about. That is how books end up unopened.
If we are not open minded in this global and diverse world we are living our lives blindfolded. We are going to trip and fall, while blaming someone else for our own mistakes. We need to do better. We need to think better. Go, read something you think is stupid or ridiculous, you might be surprised. Learn about other political ideas, other religions, other types of medicine, other ways of life. Travel. Consume information form more than one source and check if that source cares about being objective and right more that selling you an spectrum. Talk to that person who disagrees with you. Learn. Live. Make mistakes. Be wrong. Once we the blindfold is gone, your life and the lives of those around you is going to improve.