The modern world is filled with men who hold dogmas so strongly that they do not even know that they are dogmas. It may be said even that the modern world, as a corporate body, holds certain dogmas so strongly that it does not know that they are dogmas.
Because we are not in a civilization which believes strongly in oracles or sacred places, we see the full frenzy of those who killed themselves to find the sepulchre of Christ. But being in a civilization which does believe in this dogma of fact for facts’ sake, we do not see the full frenzy of those who kill themselves to find the North Pole.
I am not speaking of a tenable ultimate utility which is true both of the Crusades and the polar explorations. I mean merely that we do see the superficial and aesthetic singularity, the startling quality, about the idea of men crossing a continent with armies to conquer the place where a man died. But we do not see the aesthetic singularity and startling quality of men dying in agonies to find a place where no man can live — a place only interesting because it is supposed to be the meeting-place of some lines that do not exist.
– G.K. Chesterton
I have always been fascinated with looking at ideas that everyone takes for granted. To be thinking people, we must also look at our subconscious assumptions, the things that are such a part of our culture that we don’t even notice them any more. How do we start to see things that we can’t see? One way is history, not just learning dates and names, but studying how people thought in the past, and how that shaped their culture and actions.
This is also one reason I enjoy fantasy and science fiction. Good fantasy/scifi writers create new worlds with new cultures that let you look at your own assumptions from the outside. Why? Because you should be able to give a reason for everything you think, and an explanation for everything you think. Be bigger than your culture.