“How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division” by Elif Shafak – book review
I have multiple belongings.Elif Shafak
What a wonderful way of summing up our human nature! In her small, pocketbook “How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division”, Elif Shafak skillfully reminds us of the ancient truth: we are all one, in our diversity. She goes on to explain:
Multiple belongings are nurtured by cultural encounters but they are not only the preserve of people who travel. It is an attitude, a way of thinking, rather than the number of stamps on your passport. It is about thinking of yourself, and your fellow human beings, in more fluid terms than solid categories.
Maybe you were born and raised, educated and married, all within the circumference of the same town. Through your family stories, cultural affiliations, social preferences, political views, sports and arts connections, and so on, you still have multiple belongings.
A human being, every human being, is boundless and contains multitudes.Elif Shafak
So what is the issue? It’s our education and other aspects of the way we live. It’s our anger, anxiety and most terrifyingly – apathy. I deeply agree with Shafak on this. We shit down, disconnect, slow down, stop thinking, feeling, living. Because indeed, this is our coping mechanism.
But what if life could be painful yet lead to solutions? What if we could connect with all those dark feelings we, therapists, place in the shadow side of our psyche and slowly, gently move forward? What if we could start accepting that our feelings are indeed valid?
Anger in the face of injustice and oppression is not only a dignified human response but often the antithesis of indifferenceElif Shafak
What if, as Shafak said in her Guardian article last summer, we could tell ourselves and our children different stories? What if, in this dehumanised world, we could retell the stories and rehumanise our kind again? In the world of “why?” “why not me?” “why them?” we might be able to start a better future by asking: “what if…instead?”.
History has shown that it doesn’t start with concentration camps or mass murder, or civil war or genocide. It always starts with words: stereotypes, cliches, tropes. The fight against dehumanisation, therefore, also needs to start with words. Stories. It is easier to make sweeping generalisations about others if we know close to nothing about them; if they remain an abstraction. To move forward, we need to reverse the process: start by rehumanising those who have been dehumanised. And for that we need the art of storytelling.Elif Shafak
We all know stories matter. Stories made Homo Sapiens the most successful kind. I wonder, what if we succeed in building a better, kinder future instead?
Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash