Why does it feel like being rational is being more then human? Rational basically means based on logic, and even in the most basic sense, you would think human thought – our thought – would move more in that direction then the opposite. Yet, rational thought and discussion seems like a revolutionary concept.
Rational thought has nothing to do with religion, morality, political leaning – it has everything to do with simple thought processes, yet, for some reason we leave rationality at the door and become a machine of biased thought. We cannot think or speak without it going through a lens or a filter. As if, before we are allowed to think, we become a photographer that thinks we know how the thought is supposed to look instead of the reality of it.
I like the image of the photographer. My wife is a spectacular photographer, and I used to publish photographs of the night sky, both through a telescope and without. My wife uses filters – both before photo processing and after, and she can make even the worst looking picture look good. In effect, she is a magician, whether she knows it or not. Even our phones have filters – and if you forget to put one on, Instagram takes care of us. What is missing though, in these filters, is the truth of the scene. The raw truth of the picture is removed for the sake of making a scene more pleasing to the eye, more pleasing to our own point of view. Likewise, we do this as human beings, sometimes bringing out own filters to the photo shoot, and more often then not, bringing someone’s else.
Unlike photography, where filters carry only a bias towards what is pleasing, in real life, filters bring a bias towards a point of view. For example, someone is a conservative, they see 100 people at the food stamp line, and the filter becomes these people are lazy. These people just need to get a job. This may be true for some, but the reality is that many of these people probably do work, sometimes more then one job, and it is simply not enough. I know this because my family receives food stamps. I work, I am not lazy, and my job pays well, but it is simply not enough, at least according to the state (and my wife). Do I need them as much as the homeless guy, no, but at the same time my children need more then Ramen noodles and cornflakes. Likewise, a liberal may see someone walking down the street with a gun on their hip, and through their filter sees someone who is prone to violence – a killer, someone who, at the very least may kill animals for sport and pleasure. The reality can be something far different – this person may have had his or her family traumatized from a robbery, or that person could be carrying something valuable. At the very least, that person could be someone who is simply trying to protect their families.
Neither scenario is good in its own right, I know this. However, we all see the world through filters of both our own creation and by the creation of what we allow to influence our thoughts. From seeing a group of young, black men walking down the street, or a group of Muslim men walking into a bank, we all draw our own conclusions and prejudices through our own, internal filters. Post process this with news of gang related violence or a terrorist attack, and we justify our irrational thought. Likewise, we see people protesting abortion, or see a rich man in a nice car while he drives through an intersection with a homeless man panhandling, and again, we judge this through our own filters. Processed with the guy on the news who beat the abortion doctor to death, and a rich businessman going to jail for tax evasion, and we compound our prejudice and rationalize the filters that cloud our minds.
A wise man once said to judge not or you will be judged yourself (paraphrased of course). In other words, if you plan on judging people and their opinions, do not be surprised when it turns back around on you. Sadly, because we walk around with a filtered mind, it is nearly impossible not to judge. I know for myself I continually do it in my mind, and I have to remind myself that I am wrong to do so. If we allow ourselves to see the truth, if we allow ourselves to see the world without any filters, I believe we would become a more compassionate people, a more understanding people, a more civilized people. Yet, the system in which we live thrives off of these filters – as evidence by looking at any social media at any given time. While in photography filters may make a scene more beautiful and pleasing, in reality, filters only serve to let us see justification in our own self righteousness, thus allowing us to become a tool of the game to further the cause, and to further the division among us. The ultimate evil of politics is the need for division among the people, I would dare say the ultimate evil in religion is the same.
I am not saying we cannot have our own beliefs and opinions, nor am I saying that we cannot believe what we believe to be the truth. What I am saying is that the spirit of division should not outweigh absolute necessity to stand together as a people. A nation and a people divided cannot stand – the same wise man who talked about judging also said this, and this was echoed by an American politician over 150 years ago. We cannot afford to continue to look at the world and our neighbor through a filter of hate and despondency. We must remove these filters and stand together. If we do not, the politicians and the hatemongers win, and we will find ourselves in a national and global crises the likes of which humanity has never seen.