Questioning the given
This way of learning extends to the larger life as we grow and interact within our community. When there is a bright questioning mind he or she is shunned and accused of blasphemy and many other allegations.
I just discovered that there was no Bilqis Queen of Sheba! I also discovered that Queen Arwa, whom we studied in school, is actually called Saiyda; where did the name Arwa come from?
Most Yemenis would shoot me for saying this, but there is absolutely no evidence in history that there was a Queen of Sheba let alone that her name is Bilqis. In fact, there is historical evidence that this queen could have been Persian, Turkish or even Ethiopian.
These are just two examples of things we took for fact, but with some research we find that they are common myths rather than truths.
Yet, the good news is that as humans we hunger to learn and use our minds. If we break through the first barrier of resistance to questioning it becomes a delight to question and reason and argue – it is so amazing, like a child learning to read for the first time.
I have a friend who encourages this way of thinking. He is like a treasure to me and I can’t imagine what life would be like without having him around. Yet, he is very selective in whom he discusses issues with because, he rightly believes, there are those who come with fixed notions and who are not looking to understand but to convince others and prove that they are right. So it becomes useless and frustrating to argue with them.
Also there are also those “show-off” people who just want to talk in big terms and throw about theories to impress. They have a gigantic ego and massive insecurity and need people’s attention to feel good about themselves. These too should be avoided if you are looking for an intellectually stimulating discussion.
Not to sound condescending but especially in Yemen you rarely get the opportunity to explore beyond the givens. There are no book clubs or cultural clubs that provide people with the opportunity to learn. So outside qat sessions, you have to create your own groups.
I sincerely encourage you all to take time at least once every week for this. We need it as Yemenis and owe it to ourselves and to our country to end the intellectual stagnation that is overwhelming our society. Try it, you will be surprised how fulfilling it is – and don’t forget to share your experiences.
Let the intellectually stimulating conversations begin.