Posted by Matthew
|This guy probably can't swim.|
Great, welcome back.
"Aww, that's a lovely story," you might be saying, "what a fantastic writer. In fact, I would be more than happy to throw buckets of money at him for the sake of the betterment of humanity."
Well, thank you, I'm very flattered.
And I'm more than willing to accept your buckets of money. Or you can PayPal me.
The reason I wrote that absurd story was to illuminate how attached we can so easily become to fixed ways of thinking and how threatening and terrifying it can feel when any of our deeply held beliefs are called into question. At the same time, I also wanted to convey that it really isn't the end of the world just because we discover that some (or most) of our beliefs are incorrect.
But why do we become so attached to certain beliefs?
Our beliefs give us a sense of stability and consistency in a world that is ultimately unpredictable and so as we develop we start to treat certain beliefs like a life vest that keeps us from drowning. We may feel completely at ease in the water when we're wearing it but the thought of having it taken away can easily induce some serious panic as we discover that we're not as convinced in our ability to swim as we once thought.
We start to identify with our beliefs so strongly that we are unable to discern where we end and they begin.
It all feels like 'me.'
And so when our fundamental beliefs—whatever they may be—are threatened or attacked, we tend to experience and react as though we are being threatened or attacked. I'm sure we've all experienced this to some degree, like when you point out a simple error to someone and instead of simply acknowledging it and moving on they become irrationally upset and personally defensive, much to your confusion.
It seems silly and yet we all do the same thing without even noticing it because even though we know that we aren't right about everything, we're so sure that we're totally and unquestionably correct about "X,Y, Z," no matter what anyone says. We may even believe that we're open to changing our view if given sufficient reason yet this is often merely lip-service. The truth is that we are far more bound up to our beliefs than we realize or would care to admit.
This poses a significant challenge because the more attached we are to fixed beliefs, the less room there is for anything new, including the truth. However, if we're content to go through life with blinders on, consciously or unconsciously shielding ourselves from anything that conflicts with or calls into question any of our fundamental beliefs, then this isn't really a problem.
After all, if we can find satisfaction in simply enjoying life without being too preoccupied with this kind of inquiry then maybe it doesn't matter.
Except maybe it does?