One day after the dot-com bubble burst and I was no longer a CTO at an Internet start-up, I was at a wonderful bookstore and cafe in Salt Lake City, The Golden Braid. Instinctually, a particular book had a magnetic pull and I lifted out of the shelf. At that time, I very much defined myself as a left-brained, analytic, rational pseduo-intellectual that thought I knew how the whole world worked... until the rug had been pulled out from underneath me that previous year. Every part of my life went from idyllic (if you didn't look too far below the surface) to catastrophic, and I finally found myself in an unknown place where I had no pat answers.
This is a long-winded way of saying that this book I'm about to excerpt below made a huge impression on me. It changed my life. It was a voyage home, a true homecoming even if I didn't quite understand everything in it, it still rang true. It's the true tale of an African boy whisked from his village to a missionary school and his odyssey back to his own culture and shamanism. I don't really want to give too much away, but I recently checked the book out of the library to re-read my favorite passages.
In the world I reside today everything is based on left-brained intelligence (or, seeing as I'm in Vegas now, primal emotions run-amok) which culturally and systemically dismisses and buries any conversation by methods of mockery and/or fear all things not measurable and taught in schools or books. Thus, I tend to not speak of these agreed upon taboo subjects.
The passage below also explains why I'm moving more toward fiction writing to convey another view of reality.
This passage is in the Introduction by the author, he also mentions that Asian countries tend to also hold a non-Western view of reality that is foreign to Western education. Another reason that two of the main characters in a story I'm working are Asian-American.
"In the culture of my people, the Dagara, we have no word for the supernatural. The closest we come to this concept is Yielbongura, "the thing that knowledge can't eat." This word suggests that the life and power of certain things depend upon their resistance to the kind of categorizing knowledge that human being apply to everything. In Western reality, there is a clear split between the spiritual and the material, between religious life and secular life. This concept is alien to the Dagara. For us, as for many indigenous cultures, the supernatural is part of our everyday lives. To a Dagara man or woman, the material is just as the spiritual taking on form.
. . . .
The world of the Dagara also does not distinguish between reality and imagination. To us, there is a close connection between thought and reality. To imagine something, to closely focus one's thoughts upon it, has the potential to bring something into being. Thus, people who take a tragic view of life and are always expecting the worst usually manifest that reality. Those who expect that things will work together for the good usually experience just that. In the realm of the sacred, this concept is taken even further, for what is magic but the ability to focus thought and energy to get results on the human plane? The Dagara view of reality is large. If one can imagine something, then it has at least the potential to exist.
I decided to do a little experiment of my own with "reality" versus "imagination" when I was home visiting my village in 1986. I brought with me a little electronic generator, a television monitor, a VCR, and a "Star Trek" tape titled The Voyage Home. I wanted to know if the Dagara elders could tell the difference between fiction and reality. The events unfolding in a science fiction film, considered futuristic or fantastic in the West, were perceived by my elders as the current affairs in the day-to-day lives of some other group of people living in the world. The elders did not understand what a starship is. They did not understand what the fussy uniforms of its crew members had to do with making magic. They recognized in Spock a Kontomble of the seventh planet, the very one that I describe later in this story, and their only objection to him was that he was too tall. They had never seen a Kontomble that big. They had no problems understanding light speed and teleportation except that they could have done it more discreetly. I could not make them understand that all this was not real. Even though stories abound in my culture, we have no word for fiction. The only way I could get across to them the Western concept of fiction was to associate fiction with telling lies.
My elders were comfortable with "Star Trek," the West's vision of its own future. Because they believe in things like magical beings (Spock), traveling at the speed of light, and teleportation, the wonders that Westerners imagine being part of their future are very much a part of my elders' present. The irony is that the West sees the indigenous world as primitive or archaic. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the West could learn to be as "archaic" as my elders are?
As in the case of "Star Trek," Westerners look to the future as a place of hope, a better world where every person has dignity and value, where wealth is not unequally distributed, where the wonders of technology make miracles possible. If people in the West could embrace some of the more positive values of the indigenous world, perhaps that might even provide them with a "shortcut" to their own future." -- Malidoma Patrice Some, Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman