In a paint-by-numbers picture, the overall image is broken down and outlined in little shapes, each of which is numbered to indicate the color with which it is to be painted. Our task is to fill in these shapes, staying within the lines and using only the indicated colors.
Each of us has a worldview that is something like a paint-by-numbers picture. We have an overall image of the world made up of ideas of certain shapes and colors. This worldview starts to develop at birth. Broad outlines take shape rapidly, becoming more detailed as we learn more about the world. But as our worldview develops, it begins to limit the variety of shapes and range of colors that it accepts. Various factors contribute to this acceptance, such as culture, religion, education, and our particular life experiences. This note addresses two others: propaganda and entertainment.
Propaganda is an effort to force the shapes and colors of ideas accepted by our worldview to conform to a pattern that benefits someone else, some other vested interest. Often, propaganda promotes a simplification of our worldview–that is, larger, less intricate shapes, and a narrower range of colors–making it easier to understand. In any case, propaganda provides a pattern into which opposing ideas do not fit. Propaganda imposes its pattern by any of several methods: it can be widespread and repetitious, convincing us that it must be true; or it might include ideas that frighten us into believing it; or it simply makes us feel better, by demanding less thought, by making us feel superior, and so on.
Entertainment, the opposite of education, also works to create or modify our worldview. Whereas education (or self-study) adds details and nuance to the picture, entertainment tends to promote the opposite by simply ignoring complexity and subtlety. This self-imposed ignorance not only constructs a simplistic worldview, it also gives propaganda the opportunity to shape and color the areas that we have ignored.
Having mindlessly filled in the shapes of an actual paint-by-numbers picture with the designated colors, can we say that we are artists, or that we have created art? No, not at all.
Similarly, if we have not chosen the shapes and colors of our own worldview, but have instead allowed it to be shaped and colored by propaganda or by ignorance, we cannot say that our worldview is an image of reality, or that we are realists.
How much study, observation, and reasoning have you devoted to developing your own worldview?