Before we get started, I want to mention that Listening to Dr. Jordan Peterson’s lectures has helped me to put the thoughts expressed here, and the short stories I’ve been working on, into words. As someone who has often struggled with face-to-face communication, I am very thankful that he has been helping me to express myself through writing without even knowing that he is. He’s Canadian just like me, and I’m proud to call him that.
You were probably taught this in elementary school:
“In 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” What he did scared people because they thought that the earth was flat, and if he went too far he was going to fall off the edge. He proved to the world that the earth is round when he made it safely to the new world. He proved that there is no edge.
As you got older you probably learned that very little of this is true. This Italian explorer was just one person out of many who helped in discovering North America, but people already knew that the earth was round from the time of Aristotle. It even says in the book of Isaiah verse 40:22 “He sat enthroned above the circle of the earth…” So what you learned about Christopher Columbus when you were little was most likely a myth. But even so, should we completely drop this fairy-tale version of the truth, and say that it’s meaningless? What if this quirky little addition to a historical story was never meant to be used as a lie to replace the truth? What if it can to be used as a metaphor for how true progress works?
After I came up with this theory, and wrote down some notes to start my first post here, I tried to do some research about Christopher Columbus on the internet. (Yes, I should have done this before I started by memory). It wasn’t until then that I realized how much controversy and confusion there is around trying to find the truth about him. Some people say he was a good man with people who worked under him doing terrible things, and twisting his good name, while others say that he actually did these terrible things himself. This problem itself is connected with my theory. It’s important to know that nowadays we can’t tell when historical information is tweaked to suit a goal, or actually true. It isn’t until we realize that we don’t know something that we’ll be willing to figuratively go back in time in order to find the objective truth.
This is why I don’t only believe that the earth is round literally, but figuratively as well. There are people today who believe that the earth is flat – and no, I’m not talking about the flat earth conspiracy theorists. I’m talking about people who believe that they can move forward from where they already are because time is a straight slope up. They believe that everything gets better as time passes, and a slope down is a drop down into the depths of space. What do they do when they reach the north pole on the globe? They wonder why they can’t climb the world any higher. This way of thinking is presented as freedom from laws that restrict us, when in fact it’s evident to me that this is even more restrictive than just allowing ourselves to slide down to the origin, whether that be our childhood families, our natural ways of being, than go back to the top again.
The best example that I can think of where people are trying to climb up higher from the north is in the writer’s community. Something I’d love to be part of is a community of writers that is a healthy mix of people who hold a variety of non-polarized traditional and non-traditional views. A community that isn’t leading anyone to believe that it’s a sin to launch an idea from the traditional story arcs such as the one about a strong male character who rescues a girl, and make it something new. A community where no one has to worry whenever a strong female character is written into a story about if the motivation behind her creation came from social pressure, or if it’s written by a man, male guilt. The very people who claim that they are fighting against legalistic views are creating their own laws. I have seen the new restrictions being pushed in a workshop when the only man there was told that he had to be more careful than us female authors not to offend through his writing. I don’t know what the exact ratio between male and female authors is in general, but the fact that he was the only guy in the group makes me wonder if stories told though the masculine perspective is a rare gem, so enforcing social rules on a male author makes it even more rare.
Although there are certain aspects of my own life where I wouldn’t count myself as ‘privileged’ (I don’t believe that we can measure privilege) I know for a fact that the reason I’m receiving encouragement to write a book of short stories, and sometime in the future I can try to push it through the tough competition of traditional publication in my own name, is because of female authors who paved the way up closer to the north.
But now, in many ways we seem to have reached the top of the world. Is this a good thing? I think we are becoming polarized up north because we are choosing to stay there. We can’t find any more world that slopes up, so just as the Europeans of the 1490’s were afraid of leaving the place where they already flourished, now with our need to work towards something we are building the tower of Babel. As we keep building we are splitting into groups who speak different languages. Sometimes we are even singing the same song to a different tune, but either we can’t understand, or our pride is keeping us from patiently listening.