If you were to wake up in a new world with no knowledge but all your cognitive abilities, would that affect how you perceive the world and everything around you? Imagine you wake up in a world covered in fog. You don’t know anything, you don’t see anything. The fog engulfs all. There is no light, but it’s not dark either. A fog so thick, you cannot see anything around yourself. There is nothing around you. You walk around but nothing changes. It’s just an endless, infinite fog. It has no smell. It has no feeling. It doesn’t stop you, but there is nowhere to go. The fog is everything. Now imagine finding other people.
Imagine that these people have been living in the fog for generations. They have a culture; they have beliefs all surrounding the fog. They believe that their god lives in the fog. He can’t be seen or touched or felt. But once in a while, the fog will take his shape. You find the priest who came up with this religion. He claims to have seen the shape. You find his followers, and they are sure they have seen the shape also. You ask them what the shape is, they call you an unbeliever. They accuse you of blasphemy. You start questioning your knowledge and start following that religion. You see the positivity of everyone when they have something to believe in. But you cannot see the shape. You spend days working and honing your belief. Meditating, trying to reflect on yourself, trying to push out the cynicism and accept the one truth. Just before you collapse, you see the shape. Or maybe you don’t. But the fog swirls in just the particular way and there it was. Now you know.
You set out again, armed with the confidence of belief. You find another group of people. They see a different shape. You are confused. You ask them what their shape is like, they call you an unbeliever and accuse you of blasphemy. They threaten you and you ask for forgiveness. You meet the priest who claims to have seen the shape. You meet the followers who are sure to have seen the shape. You tell them about the other people. They get angry and attack the other people, to educate them. There is resistance and bloodshed. None of the shapes shows up.
You set off again. This time you find another group of people who believe the fog is a curse. They believe the fog is a test of their belief. Next to them are the people who believe the fog is a blessing from their lord, to nurture and nourish them. They do not get along. Further off are the people who vehemently deny any shape in the fog. The fog is just the fog. There is no god. You move on.
You walk for a long time, to get away from all the conflict, you wish for peace, all of these people had promised you peace. Eventually, you find a fence. You go under the fence and at once people come and capture you. They ask where you are from. They ask which way the fog swirls in your land. You don’t understand the question. You know there might be shapes in the fog, but what is this about the direction of the fog. They decide you are a spy and should be killed; you ask for forgiveness and assure them you are from nowhere. You start living inside the fence. The fog swirls clockwise here. They have a benevolent king who is just and kind. Only he does not like it when people sneeze in his presence, so sneezing is against the law. People have accepted it and live with it. Some do not, and they resist the king of the fence. They rebel and overthrow the king. They set up a group of people chosen by everyone to rule the fence. They decide sneezing is allowed, but they prohibit farting. You decide to leave the fence.
But as you do, there is a hedge. You get over the hedge and you are captured. They think you are a fence spy, so they decide to kill you. You ask for forgiveness and assure them you are not. They allow you to live in the hedge. The fog swirls counterclockwise in the hedge. The hedge is a community. Everyone is equal. Everyone is assigned jobs at birth and they do them. If they want to do something else, they are killed. Everyone is assigned food rations and that is all you get; if you want more, you are killed. The people accept it. They are proud hedge people. But some do not like it, they rebel and overthrow the community. They want freedom. They enforce freedom in the hedge. Anyone who says anything against freedom is killed. You decide to leave. The hedge people were suspicious about you and decide you really were a spy. This was the last straw. They attack the fence. The fence retaliates as proud ‘fencians’ do. There is blood. The fog is still.
The fog is your world. You cannot make sense of it. There is no interpretation. You don’t know what to do or where to go. All you can do is pretend to understand. The shapes in the fog are all the beliefs we have. They are desperate musings of a confused mind. They exist not in the fog but our heads. The fog has no shapes; the world has no beliefs of its own, only what we force on it. And so we are all stumbling around in an abysmal fog, trying to find meaning, trying to find anything. Some people claim to have figured out the fog, and we, desperate for something to believe in, convince ourselves that their perspective makes sense. Some people pretend to own the fog, to be from the fog, but we aren’t, the fog has nothing to do with us. The fog does not need us; the world does not need us. It is different at every point, and it is the same everywhere. The fog does not need to be defended; it just exists and we exist alongside it. Without our feeble attempts at making sense of the world, we would just be frightened, disoriented people desperate to get out, desperate to make sense of our surroundings, desperate to control it even. But we can’t, and our inadequacies are making us angry, our insecurities about our beliefs are making us violent. There is no right or wrong, there is only our own set of morals, based on our perceptions and then we try to force them onto the world. And when we find people with different perspectives, different ways of making sense of this fog, we do not like them. We blame people with different morals, we ostracize them. We are too scared to face the fact that none of us knows what is going on. None of us can make sense of this. It is too frightening. But should that end our pursuit of making sense of the world? No, if anything it should make us work harder. There should be a never-ending pursuit to find all the different perspectives and to understand them.
Sulmaaz Siddiqui is a student pursuing Psychology from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Diptarka Chatterjee
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.