I was recently watching the movie, ‘God on Trial’. I heard about it in a leadership training I took a couple of months ago. The movie was about Jews who were counting down their final days in the Auschwitz Camp, during the Second World War. They questioned why God had brought all those unbearable sufferings on them while they are the chosen ones as promised in the covenant.
The film tries to provoke feelings about one of the most touchy issues in the world. Equally, it is a subject that runs in the minds of most, if not all, in times of despair. Even if I did not agree with everything in the movie, I appreciated its audacity to inquire in that manner.
After finishing the film, I asked myself where the culture of inquiry in our society stands. My imagination did not delve into religious matters though.
I thought, do we really take a moment to see the different sides of an argument before we make decisions? Do we go with the mass or try to reason out and reach our own conclusions? Do we use our imagination in pursuit of new ideas?
The list went on and on.
At least empirically, our day-to-day lives prove that such norms are seldom practical. We do not raise such fundamental questions that will potentially disrupt the status quo and pave the way for the advent of new ideas.
But it is vital to examine the way we perceive the world – our paradigms. This gives us the impetus to look into the way we shape the values, customs and norms we embrace. The way we act, think and respond depends on our understanding and interpretation of the world we live in.
A cliché we usually hear in news headlines is the need for attitudinal change in society to wipe out the chronic problems the country faces. The swelling corruption and growing inequality, lack of good governance, infiltration of “bad” foreign cultures, erosion of positive values and customs, gender inequality, ever increasing traffic accidents, the poor working culture of the society, our mismanagement of the environment and lots more fall into this category.
These problems have been engrained in the society for years and are exacerbating. It seems like the exposure to mainstream and social media platforms has something to do with this save for all their postive aspects. We tend to believe everything we see without at least double checking. It is also a common trend to accept the ideas of those we agree with and reject others that have differing views from us, however substantial.
Workshops have been organised, studies conducted and deliberations made to deal with these problems. Yet, the euphoria fades away without having the desired impact.
It is all about our paradigms. The level of our inquiry and perception of the world we live in.
Attitudinal change is critical but how to bring it about is the lingering dilemma. Changing our paradigms precedes the desired attitudinal change. For this, we need to know the status of our paradigms. Inquiry is the key instrument in navigating the way we see the world.
Inquiry is the mother of innovation. New ideas emerge as we explore our environment meticulously. Inquiry opens our eyes to navigate the way we live. Our imagination widens to the extent we are willing to discover new realities. This enables us to identify problems, turn it to opportunities and come up with innovative solutions.
Inquiry provides us with an insight to look into matters critically before reaching an unwarranted conclusion. It enhances rational thinking and the ability to grasp our environment from a different perspective. Inquiry also encourages people to take individual responsibilities for their deeds. The more people rationalise and focus within, the more they avoid herd mentality and externalise failures.
Nurturing an inquisitive mindset is not an easy task. It becomes tougher with a society that has deep-rooted traditions, values and customs such as ours as it might be considered as a means to cast doubt on others’ beliefs. In a stark contrast to this, our lifestyle has become superficial nowadays. We practice the taboos contrary to our values behind the scene and pretend to be people of integrity in public. Such practices would ultimately result in an enduring pain.
Multiple factors can contribute to the culture of inquiry, which does not appear out of the blue. Education is a pivotal element in nurturing inquiry. The curriculum, as well as the learning-teaching methodology needs to be shaped with a view of augmenting students’ analytical power and the ability to think critically. Familiarizing students with the basic philosophical thoughts, whatever their stream, is imperative. The practice now is the focus on rote memorisation.
As the acclaimed French writer Victor Hugo put it, “to learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark”.
Reading is the primary tool to advance our paradigms and discover the world from various angles. It sharpens our understating of this fast moving world, familiarises us with diverse perspectives and enables us to respond proactively. It enlightens us with the power of logic in making major decisions that affect ourselves or the people around us. The more we develop the culture of reading, the more we follow the spark of knowledge leading to critical understanding, complex problem-solving skills and sound judgement.
Media is influential in setting an agenda. It is the main channel to bring about attitudinal change within a society by cultivating an analytical mindset. It is evident that a lot of FM stations and TV channels are currently joining the airwaves.
Unfortunately, they produce the same contents. Their very attention revolves around dealing with trivial issues. But the media could challenge the way we think, act and live given its accessibility and convenience. Raising thought-provoking questions enable us to examine our thinking and serve us a recipe for positive attitudinal change. It guides the society to see new dimensions and build on them. Yet, this demands knowledgeable and committed professionals working in the media.
Fostering inquiry is the essence of logical reasoning and sound intuition to broaden our perspective. We are living in a world exhibiting changes every second, making it inevitable that we face a number of uncertainties. It is up to us to widen our understanding, predict the future and embrace the changes.
As Abraham Lincoln has said, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.”
In essence, we can only seek and define the future if we inquire and enrich our imagination. It is only then that we will have the courage to solicit new ideas, innovative solutions and create a rational society.
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