Why do you think so?
Every person has his or her own worldview. Depending on and influenced by everything around us we form an individual picture about the world that surrounds us. Most of the time we don’t even realize that we are projecting our view, our opinion, our truth onto the world and make the world we experience our own, subjectively place.
Because it highly depends on our own adventures through life, everyone experiences the world in a slightly different way. If we are surrounded by people with similar upbringing and worldview, this world is very alike. So we don’t have to think about it and can accept it as given, as truth.
But if we get in contact with someone different, someone with a different upbringing, a different life story, a different worldview, the conversation changes. Suddenly there are other ideas about the world, other realities, other opinions. And that’s when we realize that maybe our own world, the world we experience every day isn’t objective, isn’t the only true world.
Some days ago I visited a Norwegian Zoo. I usually don’t like zoos because the cages are too small and you can see that the animals aren’t happy at all. But this one was different. First of all, it was huge. Instead of small cages, there were large enclosures for just a few animals. And all the animals were Norwegian. Moose, reindeer, arctic foxes, lynx, and wolves. It was a really amazing experience to see these magnificent creatures.
One special treat was to go into the wolves enclosure. We were six people with a guide and a bucket full of meat. We went into the enclosure and sat in the middle of this big field, surrounded by trees. The guide told us that there is no guarantee that the wolves will show up. They don’t force them to come. They just encourage them with some food.
But we were lucky. Shortly, after we sat down, the wolves started to show up. Curious but very cautious they began to come closer. These wolves aren’t socialized on purpose. All three of them know people but aren’t trained to get close or interact with humans. Only because our guide threw some meat, they came as close as one meter and took the meat. But all the time you could see how anxious they were.
Why am I telling you this? Because of what the guide said while we were sitting in the middle of the enclosure with wild wolves around us.
Our guide was a sixtyish woman who founded this beautiful zoo over 30 years ago. One of the things she could see all these years was that people are genuinely afraid of wolves. When there is a wolf seen in a forest most of the people are too scared to even go for their usual walk into this forest. There are a lot of stories and tales about wolves and all portrayal them as dangerous animals which kill and eat other animals and humans alike.
But our guide told us another perspective. She was fortune enough to live with Eskimos for several months. And there she learned that wolves aren’t feared at all. Eskimos believe that wolves are on earth to clean up. That means wolves are here to clean the world from sick animals. Wolves don’t hunt healthy animals, they only take ill or old ones.
I really like this example of a different worldview. Because the Eskimo learned that wolves only kill sick and old animals, they don’t fear them. Because western culture portrays wolves as dangerous, we fear them.
And this lesson from this amazing woman in the middle of the enclosure, surrounded by these gracious animals remained with me. How many assumptions about the world do we have that are based on tales, on stories, on beliefs that were given to us?
We assume to know the world that surrounds us, but if we are honest, we see that we mostly know what we have been told. Cultural and social behaviors are based on rules and guidelines that are defined by humans. These humans have a particular background with specific stories and experiences.
Everyone has his or her reasons to believe what they are believing, to fear what they are fearing, to do what they are doing. But instead of just following these given cultural and social rules, norms, and guidelines we sometimes should think about the why.
Why do we do certain things in a certain way? Why are we behaving like we are behaving? Why do we fear what we fear? Is there a reason? Whose reason is it and is it my reason too?
If we start to realize that everyone is influenced by millions and millions of things without even knowing it, we can also realize that there is more than we are aware of, more than we understand and more than our own view. Maybe we are wrong, maybe we are right, maybe there isn’t a right or wrong. Maybe we will never know. But in realizing that there isn’t only one truth, we can start exploring the world and find what’s our own truth, not the truth we’ve been told so far.
And by realizing that everyone has his or her own subjective truth, we can start to understand others, to respect their view and help them understand ours. Because there isn’t one truth, there isn’t one right or wrong way. The world can be an amazing collection of human beings that live in harmony and create a fascinating future together.