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The Gods Must Be (Going) Crazy: When Worldviews Collide

Jude Treder-Wolff

In the 1980 independent film The Gods Must Be Crazy, a Coke bottle falls from a small plane passing overhead and into the path of a Bushman in the Kalahari Desert. He and his villagers view the plane as a god, so they see the bottle as a fascinating and curious gift the gods saw fit to bestow. They invent all sorts of interesting uses for it, which unfortunately includes bonking on heads, something hard objects tend to inspire in human beings. When they start to fight over it, the bottle comes to be regarded as an “evil thing.” They figure the gods had to be crazy to send this into their lives, and elect Xi, the Bushman who brought it into the village, to find the place where the gods reside and return it. On his expedition he encounters white people, technology, and violence for the first time, including a culture clash that lands him in jail for months. He does succeed in the end, tossing the bottle off a mountaintop that could easily be viewed as a home for the gods, and then resumes his former life just as before, his worldview seemingly unchanged.

     To a Bushman an "expedition" is a journey. To a Long Island soccer mom an Expedition is a suburban utility vehicle. Our worldview is shaped by our world, or so it seems until some disorienting event or inspiring person or out-of-nowhere new information shakes everything up. Then we have the option of holding onto a view that does not square with reality - e.g. all the kids have grown and gone but we continue to parent them, which is a prescription for some tough moments on holidays - or of accepting that things have changed and letting go of something, which is a prescription for at least short-term pain and emptiness. What helps is to think of one's worldview as a foundation for experience that is subject to change, rather than a fixed frame that defines experience in fixed ways. What helps is to see ourselves as creators.
     The capacity to create is a gift from the gods that we have all been given, whether or not we claim it for ourselves. Creativity will break through any crack in our consciousness, but for the most part we throw it back at the point it starts to shake us up. All of humanity is awash in a sea of possibilities, but like the Bushmen we can only grasp what fits within our worldview. It must drive God crazy that we repress, deny, and isolate the rich resources of creative energy, the fuel for innovation, originality, discovery, and meaning that lie within us. God must really be going off the beam over this because creativity is the greatest human ability of all. It is the power to make language and culture and space stations and contact lenses that can stay in your eyes for a month and nonstop flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo and computer chips that know when we have had too much to drink. Creativity was the force that moved some ancient man to roast the day’s kill after the discovery of fire, and later on to add oregano and a little olive oil. And it is creativity that keeps us from destroying one another no matter how hard we try, and God knows we do try, and is the energy behind the systems and organizations designed to help us live together.
     Anything we want to change about our lives can be viewed as a creative activity. Through creative expansion, we grow the capacity to question constricted ways of thinking and programmed beliefs. The creator can work from a strong set of values and ideals knowing that things may be not as we think or turn out as we would like. If we allow life to change us, the suffering of life has meaning. When we come out of a life-changing experience exactly the same as we were going in, the gods go a little crazy.


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