By: S. Costa Franco
What if I told you that everything was a myth? Well, not EVERYTHING everything. But indeed, most of the 'absolute truths' upon which we have built our society, are simply that; myths. For example, picture a one-dollar bill. Got it? Okay, now picture a 100-dollar bill. So, how are they different? How are they truly different? If your first response is to think that one is worth one dollar and the other is worth one hundred dollars, well you're right. Kind of. However, thinking in a more concrete sense, in truth they are both merely rectangular pieces of paper, with drawings on them. The only visual cue that leads to believe that each one is worth something different, is the fact that they each have their predetermined value printed upon their surface. This value will then define what one can purchase with each sheet of paper. Although, independent of what is generally perceived as truth (that money is of great value, and should be used accordingly), one must not fail to realize that in fact, the value of these pieces of paper is no different to that of any other sheet of paper we can each acquire. But if that is the case, then how come so many people dedicate their lives to obtaining as much of these tiny pieces of paper as possible? They cannot be eaten, used as any kind of sustenance or have any material advantage to anything else we own. So why? Why out of all the things we could exchange in between ourselves for, well, other things, did we choose this as our currency? Because all evidence points to the fact that it doesn't actually matter what something is worth in a practical sense. See, we have something much more important on our side. The power to collectively believe in something to such an extent, that it can essentially be mistaken for an absolute truth.
Let's look at yet another example of this idea. Where do you live? No, no, not your address per se, but just think about it. If you thought about your house or apartment, great. I won't argue that that is a myth, since it's concrete, you know it's there, you can see it, touch it, prove it. But think bigger. Think about the country you live in, in this case, Brazil. You might agree there is no physical line that surrounds Brazil, separating it from any other country in South America. Yet, collectively, we all trust that once you move past a specific point, you are no longer in Brazil, and will arrive in Uruguay, or Peru or Guyana. But what is there to determine that people who live in Brazil are collectively different than people who live in Argentina, Botswana, Ukraine or any other country across the globe? What defines exactly which part of land belongs to the Brazilian nation, and what doesn't, since there is nothing actually there to prove it. The separation of the territory we have access to into what we know as various nations, is something completely put in place by the human race, and not something that was simply that way forever, and this applies to many other aspects of our lives. So, it is clear that we have built our society upon many, many myths.
Please remember, the purpose of realising this is not to make you question everything. It simply goes to show how an entire collective of people believing in one single thing can make it seem unquestionably true. The only way we can modify these deep-rooted behaviours would be for people as a group, to stop believing in certain things all at once. Think about it, if someone paraded down the street claiming they quit their job because 'they no longer believe in using money altogether', well, others would simply think they were insane. The reason for that is ideas that exist in one single mind, are merely that, an idea. Meanwhile, ideas that exist in the collective minds of many can materialize into something much more powerful. And this isn't always a good thing, and actually could be very dangerous. All societies were built from this notion, but that is also how something such as fake news could potentially spread so quickly and effectively. If what a community of people believes is regarded as truth merely because there is more than one person defending such claim, and anyone who opposes this must have less knowledge, then what happens if the community is wrong? Do we just adopt what is in fact false, because that is what the majority perceives as gospel truth? Well, unfortunately, that is often what happens. Which is exactly why it is so important to not disregard any minority or individual who may be opposed to what you yourself, and others, believe, because if we shut ourselves out to any form of ideological conflict, then aren't we simply sheep, being led by the few shepherds who are able to convince the, usually close-minded, majorities that their path is the only correct one to take?
Now, this may all seem intended towards deconstructing everything we consider absolutely veracious, but it is interesting to think about, especially in this time during which we are facing so much uncertainty. Throughout this pandemic, let it be known that we should all just take a step back at times, and reevaluate what we give the most value to. Picking apart our collective belief system when it comes to what we hold as undeniable truths can permit us to really put everything in perspective, and notice how individual ignorance can at times breed collective power. That's not to say that the myths we create should be discarded and re-thought to their completion, as they are crucial for the functioning of the society we know and inhabit today. But being able to recognise that nothing should in fact remain completely undisputed is the first step to perpetuate any form of change. To pertain to the topic of life cycles and rebirth, let us think of it as birthing a new mindset, in which anything around us has room to be questioned. If you shall take one thing from this article, let it be this: It is those who question the unquestionable, that are further equipped to comprehend the world around them.
NOTE: It should be noted that the basis for all the ideas presented in the article are from Yuval Noah Harare's Sapiens. This book gives a brief overview of human history, detailing how past events have shaped the modern reality we know today. Delving into different periods of time, Harare, a historian and scholar, explains how there were many different human species, and how ours went from mere hunter-gatherers, roaming around the Earth in search of food, to the species which dominates the present environment. He outlines the importance of the cognitive, agricultural and scientific revolutions, and how each came to be, as well as the crucial aspects that have led to the unification of our world, such as currency and religion. Finally, he explores the myths that have created present-day society, and goes on to explain the dangers of the ever-growing power of humans. This book is a must-read, as it may completely changed the perspective of many on our knowledge and delivered the information necessary to question if the development of our world today was set in stone, or if one thing would have been different, everything would not be as we know it. The book is recommended for all avid readers of historical philosophy, or truly anyone who is seeking to be surprised by the knowledge they can gain about the past, present and future. Thus, for more information about this view of our world, purchase Yuval Noah Harare's Sapiens to learn more.