When the first British colonialists arrived in Western Australia and saw black swans they thought they were in topsy turvy land. Swans were of course white and only white. A black swan challenged the status quo and excited the dreamy abut other possibilities for this strange land they called Australia.
We all grow up with values that are self-evident and so obvious to us that they appear as Truths set in monolithic stone. And then as our brains develop we start to challenge the truths in a orgiastic explosion of adolescent hormones. Then finally as our brains start to decay some of us revert to type and dig up the Truths once held so dear and inevitably pass them on to their children.
Such is life.
Depressing isn’t it. Of course some well-adjusted (or maladjusted depending on your point of view) teenagers never question the values which have been passed down generation by generation. These children grow up to live near their parents, vote for the same political parties, and lead fulfilling albeit safe lives. Unfortunately this can include views about religion, race, sex, gender, and boat people.
In the first world challenging the status quo is for the most part valued by society. Our adversarial political system is geared towards a simplistic binary opposition which encourages at least a spark of creative thinking. It is only from challenging the status quo that beautifully, creative, destructive, and magical ideas can emerge from the beige concrete of the norm.
One of the first times I became aware that I wasn’t as free a thinker that I thought I was. I was waiting for a ferry to an Indonesian island from Singapore early one morning and needed a coffee and some breakfast. Everywhere I looked the food stalls were selling noodles which were. Don’t happily slurped by the locals. There were no western type foods around and I settled for a tea. I was exposed to difference in a small but real way as only travel can.
When I find myself being particularly certain about an idea or concept I think about noodles for breakfast and black swans, and generally change my point of view.