I recall not liking potatoes as a child. I would be forced to sit at the table for as long as it took to get them down, and that usually took hours; until they were cold and dry and really difficult to swallow. I call this "Potato Conditioning."
Today, I love potatoes! In all shapes and sizes, mashed or baked, with or without filling. So what changed? How did I go from a mulish potato resistor to a potato aficionado? Clearly, I acquired the taste for it, somehow. Yet I don't recall exactly how that happened. I am not the only one who has walked the potato gauntlet; practically everyone I know can relate with some vegetable or another.
This kind of transition has occurred in me with issues more serious than potatoes. There was a time when I had some very unsavoury ideas about people who were not my race, or my religion, who didn't speak my language, and who wore "strange" clothing and haircuts. Thankfully, these beliefs have crumbled under the tide of experience. I have come to understand what it means to love people, and not what they wear, or their race, or what they believe.
When I consider that the concept related above is not new, and that everyone understands it in principle, then I can't help wondering why we still live in a world with borders and boundaries, restrictions and judgements. It is not as pervasive as it was fifty years ago, no doubt, and that leads to the conclusion that to some extent, societies can replace dogma and prejudice with tolerance and understanding - or at least a willingness to try to understand differences in others. So why do we do this with some things and not with everything. Once we see the pattern in one aspect of society, why do we continue to ignore it in other aspects?
Coming to terms with another religion, accepting that there exist other beliefs, deciding to embrace another human being, regardless of their social standing, apparent intelligence, race or sexual orientation - these are all examples of potato conditioning. At some level we all understand that nothing is absolute, and to cast something as absolute makes our world smaller. Yet we persist regardless.
Our societies are boxed in by absolutes. Absolute law, rules, regulations, absolutely wrong, absolutely right, absolutely black, absolutely white - everything is based on one persons absolute or another's, because in the dance of life fear will not allow anything less. If we are not absolute, then we may not be completely right, and there is no room for half measures; our credibility, safety and security depends on that. One absolute and irrefutable truth, however, is that no matter how safe and secure we feel, we are never truly safe and secure. This great illusion is also as old as time, yet it is the one that we find most elusive.
At times we see the contradiction of our dogmas staring back at us; they rear their ugly heads and shout at us. In the words of Sir Winston Churchill; "(We) stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and scurry off as if nothing happened." Many people don't have the courage to embrace what they don't understand, and that is where they miss the point completely. Fear boxes them in to the extent that they barricade life out. They see only what they are allowed to see given their safe position, and for this safety they will fight bitterly. This is what so often leads to vehement clashes and determination by some to impose their own apodictic versions of "the absolute truth" on others.
Ironically, by fighting what we fear we unwittingly draw more of it to us. To understand this I only have to remember my potato days. In my heart of hearts I have a profound awareness that everything is good and that, as with potatoes, I can find good in anything if I can rally the courage to swallow my fear, to lower my guard and look for it. Only then will I see all of life; taste it in all its fullness. Let us not reject life until it becomes cold and dry, and difficult to swallow.
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