Thought Prisons

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Some ideas are liberating. They can be the freedom of liking new kinds of food, or seeing new places, or meeting new people. In all of these cases, the ideas themselves are not what liberates a person. Instead, it’s an intersection of exploration and positive experience.

Some ideas are like chains and bars. Irrational hatred, intolerance, and willful ignorance are but a few. They limit exploration and understanding. Maybe they exist to protect people from the unpleasantness of the world. Or they exist because the familiar is more comforting than the foreign. Regardless, they keep people apart from the things and people that might enrich their lives.

It’s disappointing to see this in others, though that disappointment is self-inflicted. One cannot celebrate the differences in people when it suits them, and be dismayed by those differences when it suits them. These differences do not identify themselves as good or bad, righteous or venal, benevolent or malignant. They are differences, and people will choose how they feel about them.

Those feelings can be their own prison, too. Much of my life, I’d been taught to hate people for intrinsic qualities that they could not change. Over time, I came to realize that none of what I’d been taught was true. It turned past experiences into terrible things. There are people I know and love who still cling to these terrible things. Through fear, I am stuck in a state of dread that my ideological differences will abandon people to their own thought prisons.

Letting go of unrealistic wants might be how I am able to tear down parts of my own thought prison. I think it’s human nature to want things to improve, but life has its own way of reminding me that there are no guarantees. All I have are my choices. Everything else runs the risk of limiting my view of the world around me.

I will say that part of why this isn’t easy is because of emotional investment. Sometimes it pays off. Sometimes it doesn’t. Just because I’ve made that investment does not mean I will be rewarded. All it does is provide an atmosphere where it could be rewarded. Even when that doesn’t happen, I have to work hard to recognize that I did all that I could as a person.