You Simply See What You’re Told To See

This morning I was woken up by my six year old singing one line from the song “I Can Show You the World.” With a big grin on his face he sang, “I can open your eyes, take you wonder by wonder, ” while prying my eyelids open with his fingers. It was a Saturday morning, the one morning that I could sleep in, and now I was awake a lot earlier than I had planned on. Still semi-conscious, I wasn’t ready to climb out of bed, so to wake myself up I pulled out my phone and watched this TED talk. It was like drinking 5 cups of coffee, all it took was 30 seconds and then I was as wide awake.

I was shocked. I had no idea how oppressive life is in North Korea. And what shocked me even more was her perspective at the time while she was living in North Korea:

Growing up in North Korea, we truly believed that our Dear Leader is an almighty god who can even read my thoughts. I was even afraid to think in North Korea. We are told that he’s starving for us, and he’s working tirelessly for us, and my heart just broke for him. When I escaped to South Korea, people told me that he was actually a dictator, he had cars, many, many resorts, and he had an ultra-luxurious life. And then I remember looking at a picture of him, realizing for the first time that he is the largest guy in the picture. And it hit me. Finally, I realized he wasn’t starving. But I was never able to see that before, until someone told me that he was fat. Really, someone had to teach me that he was fat. If you have never practiced critical thinking, then you simply see what you’re told to see. The biggest question also people ask me is: “Why is there no revolution inside North Korea? Are we dumb? Why is there no revolution for 70 years of this oppression?” And I say: If you don’t know you’re a slave, if you don’t know you’re isolated or oppressed, how do you fight to be free? Not knowing is the true definition of isolation, and that’s why I never knew I was isolated when I was in North Korea. I literally thought I was in the center of the universe.

Yeonmi Park

“You simply see what you’re told to see.”

“If you have never practiced critical thinking, then you simply see what you’re told to see.” That is what keeps echoing in my mind over and over again.

I’m currently reading a book a book written by Kimberly Jo Smith where she talks about her experience growing up as a descendant of Joseph and Emma Smith. After Joseph Smith’s death, his wife and children stayed in Nauvoo, Illinois while the Church moved to Utah. The author’s great-great grandfather stayed and his son stayed, and his son’s son stayed. And their views, beliefs, and perspectives stayed and got passed down from one family to the next. Throughout the pages of the book you are confronted with the reality of how the views and perspectives of our parents and grandparents take root into the formation of your own views, beliefs, and perspectives.

Kimberly Jo Smith talks about sitting in her house listening to the Osmonds newest album in her room. Her father happened to be walking by her room and when he heard the music playing he stopped by her doorway and made a sarcastic comment about the band. “I asked my father what his problem was with their music and he replied with a sour tone in his voice that they were Utah Mormons. My father’s response was bitter and hateful; it hit me like a ton of steel…I became embittered against the word Mormon for reasons I did not understand and concluded that it was a bad thing.”

“You simply see what you’re told to see.”

I was deeply moved by Tara Westover’s memoir Educated. I was getting ready for a century ride on my road bike, and the night before I was searching for an audio book to listen to during the hours I would be spending on my bike. I happened to come across Tara Westover’s book and thought it sounded interesting. Once I started listening, I couldn’t stop.

“Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind. I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create. If I yielded now… I would lose custody of my own mind. …What my father wanted to cast from me wasn’t a demon: it was me.” 

Tara Westover, Educated

“You simply see what you’re told to see.”

“The Lamanites were taught to hate the children of Nephi.”

4 Nephi 1:39

How do you teach someone to hate someone? I’ve always found that phrase interesting:”They were taught to hate.” Did they go to school as kids and in conjunction with learning math and reading did they also have lessons on hating the Nephites? Probably not. It’s happens from seeing what you’re told to see. It’s not likely that the Lamanites were directly told to hate the Nephites. Ideas, beliefs, and perspectives are taught to us through the culture that surrounds us and by the attitudes of those we are around. To truly become free, it’s necessary to develop the ability to think critically about our beliefs and to evaluate our point of view and the point of views of others, otherwise you will be dangerously vulnerable.

August 31, 2019

Time on this article: 1 hour

Total time writing on this blog: 15 hours