06 March 2011

What We Believe

In one of our English classes, we're working our way through the novel Dances with Wolves.  One of the elements of the book that I like a lot is the way that the main character works his way from being isolated and alone to being a part of the Comanche tribe, a part of a community.  This is a theme that's dear to me because I grew up in a military family, and we constantly moved from place to place, never setting out roots, never really being a part of any community at all.  It's something that I've missed in life, and something that did make me suffer in some small ways as far as relationships and trust were concerned.

It's fascinating to watch the character progress and develop throughout the novel.  In order to be a part of this new community that he now has contact with, he has to give up certain beliefs and allow himself to entertain the notions that what he learned earlier in his life may or may not be right--and that "right" is a relative term.  We often go through our lives thinking that what we've learned so far has to be right simply because we've learned it--not realizing that by holding on to such beliefs we definitely limit the amount that we can learn from other human beings who have been taught differently, who hold beliefs that are not the same as our own.

For me, the greatest challenge has been in trusting that letting go of my beliefs isn't going to hurt me.  Changing the way I see things isn't going to turn my life into a disaster.  In the novel, Dunbar starts to see the sense behind the Comanche ways of life and thinking, and he starts to realize that their ways and thoughts were just as valid as--and sometimes more valid than--the ways and thoughts of the people who had taught him his whole life long.  Once he reaches this point he's able to learn as he's never really learned before, and he's able to see life as he never has seen it before.

It's great to be reminded that for all the different people in the world, there are different ways of seeing life and living.  And no one's perspective is more valid, more real, or more important than anyone else's.  And if we're ever truly to be part of different communities and different peoples, then we have to allow other people to be themselves--and allow ourselves to be ourselves.  Only then can we give of ourselves to others, for then we can let down the barriers that we tend to keep up for some reason to "protect" ourselves.  But by protecting ourselves, we keep ourselves small.  When we let go of that need to defend and hide, then we truly are becoming something bigger than before, and allowing ourselves to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

Within you right now is the power to do things you never dreamed possible.
This power becomes available to you just as soon
as you can change your beliefs.

Maxwell Maltz

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