Many of us have heard the old saw “Pain is unavoidable, but suffering is a choice.” It might seem like an aphorism aspiring to enter philosophy as a maxim. And ironically it is profound precisely because it is trite. We hear it so often because it resonates with so many people at a deep level even if they cannot describe why it seems to offer comfort as they deal with their chaotic lives. In short, it can soothe the psyche.
Simple Reality is a worldview filled with trite aphorisms, profound maxims and just plain common sense or in other words it is a paradigm based on truth. The basic structure that forms the foundation of Simple Reality is that our worldview determines our identity and our identity drives our behaviors. Can we really change our worldview and identity when they are so deeply ingrained from birth to believe P-B is the only reality? For the answer we turn to history and Hollywood. In Colonial America in the 16th century we find memoirs of white women captured by native-Americans, giving birth to several children and after several years of living in a markedly different cultural milieu, refusing to return to colonial society when given the opportunity. In other words, their worldview and identity had undergone a major shift. They no longer saw themselves as “white” women nor did they want to return to the beliefs, attitudes and values of their former society.
In 1836, three of America’s best-selling novels were by James Fenimore Cooper and captivity was included in the story of all three. The fourth book was a memoir, a “true story of a settler woman who, captured by the Seneca Indians, married into the tribe, had seven children and refused to rejoin white civilization.” The same year that Cooper’s novels became so successful (1836), nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker was abducted by Comanches in Texas. Cynthia Ann became a Comanche bride and gave birth to three children. Twenty-four years later she was “rescued.”
“The man credited with rescuing her went on to serve two terms as governor of Texas; the captive, however, was unwilling and unable to readjust to white society.” Cynthia Ann had become a “captive” of a shifted narrative which had determined for her a new identity. Her story inspired a novel called The Searchers by Alan Le May and here is where Hollywood enters the story.
John Ford’s film The Searchers starred John Wayne. Ford began shooting in June 1955 and announced that his new western “would be a ‘psychological epic.’ Indeed, ‘The Searchers” is steeped in pathology—not just the director’s, but ours. No American movie has ever so directly addressed the psychosexual underpinnings of racism or advanced a protagonist so consumed by race hatred.”
John Wayne portrays an angry loner who spends seven years pursuing Comanche raiders who had massacred his family and kidnapped his niece. When he finds out that his niece has the identity of a Comanche woman, his objective changes from rescuing her to murdering her. Wayne’s character, Ethan Edwards was “an unmistakable neurotic, devoured by an irrational hatred of Indians.”
As some of us realize, all of the characters, real or imaginary in these stories of abduction are trapped in the same worldview. Even when the women internalize the worldview and identity of their indigenous captors, they have undergone only a relative shift; they have traded, willingly or not, one self-destructive context for another. But we can say these stories do support the ability that many of us have to, consciously or unconsciously, shift from one paradigm to another. One of those choices is P-A and that shift has happened many times around the world throughout human history in places other than fiction, the Colonial American frontier or Hollywood.
References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry.