Why do I behave the way I do? What are the assumptions that form the base of my logical conclusions? When someone reads my writing or observes my behavior and says “OMG, Darren, you’re batshit-fucking-crazy, yo!”, what can I point to that will allow them to understand that I’m actually quite rational–I just operate on a different set of beliefs?
A person’s beliefs are incredibly powerful. People kill and are willing to die for their beliefs. With stakes that high, maybe we should all take the time to write down our beliefs and try to understand them better? Just sayin’.
1. Love is good, fear is bad
I know it’s possible to think your way into the belief that nothing is good or bad; everything just is, but for me, that feels too much like life has no meaning; you just pay bills and die. The truth is I have choices. I have infinite possible choices to make, every second of my life, and I need a system for differentiating the good choices from the bad ones.
- Creates love, joy, gratitude, etc.
- Eases suffering
- Creates fear, anger, shame, etc.
- Increases suffering
The challenge is…how do you measure the net effect of a single action, taking into consideration the interconnectedness of everything (i.e., the butterfly effect)?
I don’t know.
2. Humans are fallible
No one knows absolute truth. We can only know an approximation of truth, based on our assumptions and experience. Therefore, it is critical to understand that my beliefs are not perfect, nor will they ever be. In fact, no one’s beliefs will ever be perfect. There are no safe assumptions. There are no facts beyond contestation. Even if the entire human race believes something, that still doesn’t guarantee that it’s true. On the contrary, the easiest way to guarantee that you’re wrong is to refuse to question/update your beliefs, even when new information is presented. As soon as you say “That’s it. I know all there is to know. I’m not changing my beliefs ever again.” that’s when you limit yourself.
From a personal perspective, I can be mindful of this belief by trusting logic (not my ego), challenging assumptions, and seeking new information.
3. Experience trumps faith
This is pretty simple. Let’s assume you do not believe in the existence of aliens. Now, which of the following is most likely to change your mind:
- Your friends tell you aliens exist.
- Your government tells you aliens exist.
- You watch UFO videos on YouTube.
- An alien lands a spacecraft on your lawn, walks inside your house, eats all your food, and never leaves–it just lives in your spare bedroom now and plays Xbox all day.
Put another way, if I experience an encounter with extraterrestrials, mere ridicule from armchair skeptics isn’t going to convince me it didn’t happen. But I also have enough sense to know my personal experience would be insufficient for “proving” anything (unless of course said extraterrestrial was still in my spare bedroom), and I’d probably feel zero obligation to do so, unless I believed I alone held the key to unleashing that truth on the masses.
BTW…I’ve had no such experience. I don’t even own an Xbox.
4. Success is measured in “goodness”
Most people have been taught that success is measured in money, material wealth, and fame. That definition just doesn’t work for me. Those things don’t inspire me. What inspires me is the thought that I can make a positive impact on the planet before I die. Success is a measurement of this impact, i.e., how much goodrippled outward from my existence?
- How many hearts did I make feel love?
- How many mouths did I feed?
- How many minds did I teach?
- How many smiles did I create?
- How many people did I empower?
You get the idea.
5. It’s not what you know, it’s what you do
In other words, I’m not interested in transcending my body and never returning, I’m not trying to be a full-time mystic, and I have no apparent need to walk on water. I am only interested in spirituality and all things pseudoscience insofar as they help me accomplish my real-world purpose.
Is this redundant, given #4 and #5? I’m not smart enough to tell at the moment.