We wrote this to a friend today which has spurred a number of thoughts to share.
The more we age and mature, the more we realize we DON’T know for sure. Fundamentalism is the easy way out of uncertainty or that which we cannot know for sure. Once we escaped the need to be certain about our beliefs, we found great relief in more tolerance and NOT needing to know for sure. To know oneself is the most important and difficult task in this life.
In this post-modern age with such conflicts between secularism and religious or political fundamentalism, it is hard to have pure knowledge on most any subject. With so much manipulation of religions, the sciences, the media, and our emotions…we are easily overcome by the cacophony of mixed messages we hear all around us. The easy approach seems to be to take a leap of faith to believe what you are told to believe by your family and culture. Since we have such a strong drive to have a sense of belonging, fundamental causes are very attractive and feed our otherwise challenged egos with a sense of confidence and meaning…even if often based on false or manipulated information.
It appears the more questionable the belief, the louder and more sure seem the voices that purport them. The majority of us who do not support a fundamentalist agenda are the “quiet majority” while our medias and institutions are full of sensationalist, bombastic voices attempting to shout down reason or doubt in their theories. While “free speech” and “religious freedom” are espoused as the higher moralities of social discourse, we now see the value of “quiet waters run deep” and as we gain wisdom we begin listening to that quiet majority of fewer words and greater actions. We begin to understand that a great majority of people are simple followers chanting in chorus that which they WANT to believe. The people we SHOULD be following or listening to are those of fewer words but when they speak it is based on true knowledge or experience. Reason and intellectual honesty are the basis for listening and accepting someone’s viewpoints. The older we get, the less patience we have for empty, sensationalist chatter. It often comes down to “your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear a word you say”.
So what CAN we know for sure? Can we trust everything in the history books our institutions push at us? No. Should we live based on some mystical hope in divine interventions in our everyday life by a god we cannot see or prove? Probably not though this seems to be the only way to control the lower natures of the human race if indeed we want to live in a utopian world of existence. Can we trust our emotions or “sixth senses” to tell us if people are good or evil or worthy of trust? Unfortunately, our lives are full of placing too much dependence on the wrong people or influences in our lives.
Sadly, we are not sufficiently young enough to know everything we thought we knew in our youth. The older we get, the more doubtful we become in the meaning of “truth”. Just because something is repeated ad nauseam does not mean it is true. Just because the majority believe something doesn’t mean it is true.
So, how should we then live and think? If life brings us fewer absolutes the further we go along, how do we find meaning and confidence in this life?
For us, the key has become to allow ourselves lots of leeway to question all presuppositions…our own and those around us. If we have lower expectations on absolute knowledge or “truth”, we then have less of a chance to be totally disillusioned at the end of this life’s path. Keeping an open mind is very difficult because our nature and egos drive us to pursue surety. It is often painful to examine the many options before us and try and decide for ourselves what is true or not. If our truth then comes out different than the majority, it becomes doubly painful for a while to live without the acceptance or support of other humans around us. If you go against the grain of institutional fundamentalism, you are often dubbed “disillusional”, an enigma, or just full of yourself. We have come to the conclusion that it is better to be full of “yourself” than be full of other people’s programming and manipulation. Dare to think and do differently than the majority. You will then have a better chance of being right and successful.
Life is a constant cycle of learning, doubting, testing alternatives, and moving forward step by step into a sovereign, educated individual. We truly are evolving as a species even though it is often difficult to say if we are improving or digressing.
So we now attempt to be slow to absolutism, and steadfast in pursuing truth or accepting the fact that some things are just truly unknowable…and it is okay NOT to know for sure. Therein lie peace and an adventurous life journey.