I want to change the world.
When I was young, I saw that the human race had some problems.
I went to school in the early 1980s. Our teacher told us to crouch underneath our desks and lace our fingers behind our necks. This would protect us in case Russia dropped nuclear bombs on Indianapolis.
It seemed to me that mankind had some serious issues to work out.
I grew up in a low-income neighborhood. Down the street in a friend’s house, I once saw an expensive toy. It was a playhouse-kitchen a little taller than a doghouse. Inside the hollow walls that went “bonk” was a plastic stove with little toy hotdogs that weighed nothing.
In the real living room, beside the plastic playhouse, was a large round hole punched through the wall. It was the size of a hat. Dark clumps of hair and dried blood hung from the ridge of crumbled plaster.
People in my neighborhood seemed to be having problems with violence and hatred.
The house I grew up in had its own problems.
It seemed to me that a lot of people behaved violently in the world. They all justified their behavior with one belief or another. I wondered “why.”
When I say that I wondered “why” people behave and think as they do, I am not referring to a sort of wandering curiosity.
This “WHY?” was a 20-ton drillbit in my head, grinding towards the earth’s core. It was a penetrating need to know, motivated by physical pain.
It seemed like most people took violence and hate for granted.
They only seemed to wonder “who” to hate, not why.
I thought people were wrong.
To me, war and violence and racism did not seem like necessities.
From the time I was very little, I could see that the problems people had were created because they were thinking about things the wrong way.
I wanted to make certain I did not make the same error.
That error was deadly. But I didn’t know exactly what it was.
I wanted to know how people were learning to hate and why it was so common.
People thought they had “a good reason” to hate a country or a religion or some group of people, but the groups and the reasons were all different.
We all shared the same world, so the problem had to be in how we were perceiving it and what we believed about it.
So I paid attention to how people think about the world.
I wanted to learn what mankind’s perception was made out of, so that I could understand how human beings interact with reality. I wanted to learn how people build a scale model of the world in their minds and call it “reality.”
If I could understand how people built that reality inside their head, I could understand why that world was often so dark or different from the one outside.
I could learn why the world in some people’s heads had no room for entire races of human beings.
Reading hundreds of books helped me to learn about how people think. Over decades I started to notice my own processes, and eventually saw how similar we all are.
Talking with tens of thousands of people taught me a lot.
Being beaten with chains taught me a lot more. I will post about that next.