Monday, March 21, 2011

Undoing the Past

There are advantages and disadvantages to everything. I don't have a large readership so I feel free to say whatever comes to mind or at least I am trying awfully hard to do that. It is part of being healthy. One should always have a way of spouting off as long as it does not hurt anyone. Otherwise, I will be eating what is in the fridge, drinking my one bottle of wine, or trying to start smoking. I like to think I would still write it regardless of how many people read my blog posts.

It seems to me we start this life OK. We come out of our mothers with our past lives (I am a Buddhist so what do you expect?) safely hidden for the most part and then we learn core values and truths from our caregivers (parents, relatives or whoever takes care of us) and school and church or religion directly or indirectly and so on which is from the culture and society we are born into. Then we spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out what is really us and what is the silly stuff poured into our receptive minds and then trying to get rid of it. Heavens knows there is so much junk we are given.

When I was first introduced to my kindergarten class at Chesterton Elementary School, we were allowed some free time to play and our teacher pointed out some toys. I made a bee line to the trucks and cars. I remember the girls whispering: " No, don't go there. They are the boys toys." I can still feel the shame. I had to play with the dolls and other such things. I hate dolls. I learned that trucks and cars were for boys not girls. Why? I have no idea but that lesson was internalized as it was the teacher who had separated the toys. It was reinforced by my parents who gave those sort of toys to my brother and those stupid dolls to me. There was something wrong with me because I wanted to play with things with wheels. I wanted the blocks and building toys my brother had. I did not want a pretend stove. I would often steal my brother's toys and play with them in the dirt, making roads and drive around. My brother didn't mind but my mother did.

I am not unique. Lots of us work very hard to unlearn the silly sexist things we were taught as kids. Children of color were taught they were not as good as white children. Some of the tests done during the trial of Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education in which school desegregation was overturned showed that clearly. When black children were shown black and white dolls, black American children overwhelmingly preferred white dolls. They have learned well. They weren't born that way.

Boys are taught they are the ones that lead and that they like girls and will marry them someday and have children. Trouble is some boys don't want to be the leaders but would rather follow and some boys like other boys. Not everyone wants children.

One of the healthy things I do for myself is deconstructing what was taught to me as a kid. As everyone knows, some of those things are very deeply ingrained so we don't even know they are there. Hypnotherapy helped me do that years ago and writing meditation does that as well. Still, it is difficult to uncover experiences that defined certain beliefs when both are hidden deep in the unconscious. Some people don't try and that is their loss.

There has been a lot of people who had trouble accepting a president who is a Afro-American and the large amount of racism that came from that was shocking to me. I had trouble accepting a woman as president and had to really dig deep for those prejudices and to come up with more realistic beliefs. I had no idea that I had sexist ideas and had to face that possibility during the last presidential election. I am glad I did. I still don't like some particular women running for office but I like to think it is their lack of qualifications or ideas that disqualifies them for me and not some hidden prejudices.

I fight everyday, it seems, to uncover some so-called core truths that are not true at all. I am reading a biography of Truman Capote by Gerald Clarke and I have always been amazed how this writer, Capote, caught on early to the reality of this world. I wasn't so inclined. I think the culture and this society spends far more time acculturating women to fit certain stereotypes in the world than they do men. I am not excusing myself. Capote has always been for me a very gifted and intelligent writer. I think I have read all of his published writing. I think he was able to do some inner questioning earlier than I was and reading about his early life I am amazed that he did it so well.

Many of our false beliefs make us very unhappy. The Dali Lama said that he has been amazed to how much Westerners have so much self-hatred. I can understand that. We are taught in the Christian Religion whether we are of that religion or not that we are worthless individuals and full of sin. I know I was and I am can still feel the effects of those lessons although I am not a Christian. I am not saying that Christianity is a bad religion. His Holiness wasn't either. Everyone has a different pathway to follow and that is all. It's just those things many of us were taught give us so much grief and unhappiness. It was someone who said a very long ago that the attachment to the past is what gives our life, sorrow. We need to let the sun in on those false and dusty beliefs and see them for what they are and then expose them to the air. Well, at least that is what I am trying to do.

I am tired of being unhappy. If anyone has been reading my blog, it is this attempt to change my point of view that I have been occupied with of late. For me it is remembering those beliefs and that can be difficult because they are buried deep and then digging them up and seeing where they came from. I remember once being taught that none of us have the right to be happy. It is our duty to suffer. When I dug that one up, I laughed good and hard. Not only do I have the right to be happy but I have the duty to be. I threw that one back to the relative that gave it to me although I loved her and she is now deceased. I can still love her but think her opinion was loony. Hopefully, she knows better now.

Rebellion is one of the great theme of Western Literature according to V.S. Naipaul in his book, "A Writer's People". It is what people in the West do best, we rebel against established order. When the individual questions the truths that have been given to each of us, he or she is rebelling against not only the past but the establishment itself. We have a long tradition of doing this. It is good and healthy that we do this. It is not what so many cast aspersions to as the "Me Generation" but an effort to be who were meant to be in the first place.

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