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What they think and why they think it 0

Dear Bradshaw,

Last week I taught Adriana, a private student whose last lesson with me was two years ago. When I walked into her house and passed a bookshelf with framed photos of her family, I pointed to the one that was not family and said, “Is this your grandfather?”

“No,” she said, fooled by my serious tone and deadpan expression, “that’s Padre Pio. You don’t know Padre Pio?”

“No,” I lied. “Who’s he? Your uncle?”

Having lived in Italy for almost eight years, I know Padre Pio. His picture is everywhere in Rome. One of the most revered of Catholic saints, he lived from 1887 to 1968 and became famous for his stigmata. He’s as popular as the Pope and nearly as known as Jesus. But Adriana knows I’m American and was raised Jewish and, being clueless about Americans, Jews and sarcasm, she was also fooled when we were studying at her kitchen table and I pointed at a picture of Christ on the wall, and said, “Is that your brother? Good-looking guy.”

“What? No,” she said. “That’s… how you say in English, GesĂą?”

“Jesus?” I said. “That’s Jesus? As in the Christ?”

“Yes,” she said. “Christ.”

“Is that what he looked like?”

“Yes.”

“Exactly like that?”

“Well,” she said, “that’s probably what he looked like.”

This, in my opinion, is one of the problems with the world, Shaw, the fact that someone would say something like that. It begins, I think, when we con children into believing in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Probably it’s for the best. We’re preparing them for a lifetime of illusions. But just once I’d like to hear a five-year-old say, “Gee, Mom. Gosh, Dad. How could a fat, old fart in a red suit fly on a reindeer-driven sleigh all over the world and visit all those homes in one night? And what about the kids who live in houses or apartments without chimneys? What does he do then? Squeeze in through the keyhole?”

If everyone stopped to think about what they think and why they think it, we might be able to avoid a load of problems, and solve a ton of other ones. Instead, people believe what they’re told to believe. They swallow it like a newborn drinking its mother’s milk. Instead of pacifiers, we should give babies Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to suck on, and the insight to understand it.

Adriana believes the picture on her kitchen wall is a legitimate portrait of a man who reputedly lived two thousand years ago, and who knows, maybe she’s right. After all, she’s working on a PhD in economics. Then again, that might explain things. Nevertheless, I think most people are sheep, and that’s good and bad. Good because a shepherd needs sheep or he’s out of a job. But bad when the shepherd is Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini or any megalomaniac trying to satiate an insatiable ego or to protect his or her own selfish needs and desires.

Anyway, Shaw, time to get going. It’s dark outside, and if I don’t get to bed soon, the Boogeyman might get me.

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