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Believe Six Impossible (or at least self-contradictory) Things Before Breakfast

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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-23-11 06:34 PM
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Believe Six Impossible (or at least self-contradictory) Things Before Breakfast
"Holding onto any position is an imposition. Let them all go and see where we stand, without any artificial beliefs to stand upon!"

This quote from Ramana Spencer has dramatically clarified something I've recently been wondering about my beliefs.

I have noticed that I seem to approach the idea of "belief" differently than most people. I also approach it in a way that causes deep confusion - especially when I'm discussing belief-encrusted topics like ecology, spirituality, the role of technology in society, or the future of humanity.

I have found that I usually take on positions or beliefs only for a while, then I tend to change over to the opposite belief and hold that one for a while. As part of the process of exploring the new belief I have to come up with rational, logical support for it. Much of what I do in discussions is explore the logical underpinnings of whatever belief I hold about the topic at the moment. The intensity with which I do that can look a lot like arrogance because I tend to dive into the belief-justification process quite whole-heartedly.

It goes without saying that this approach is deeply confusing to people who work very hard to develop consistent belief systems that they can support over the long haul. What value can there be to such eccentric behaviour?

This is a deliberate activity that I find useful for a number of reasons. The first is that it illuminates the subject more completely for me, by allowing me to examine it closely from a number of different points of view. The process also gives me insight into the feelings of those who stake out one side or the other and cling to it, and so gives me insights into other people that I might otherwise miss or reject.

Another reason it's useful is that it makes me comfortable with paradox, and I feel that an appreciation of paradox is essential in order to get the cosmic joke. Best of all, it allows me to recognize that all beliefs are artificial constructs. In the process of switching between polar opposite beliefs I find there can be moments when I catch a glimpse myself naked, without attachment to any position. This philosophical nudity is a state I value very highly.

Internet discussion boards, especially those devoted to spiritual or environmental topics are great places to explore this process. Such a wide variety of deeply held beliefs are on display, and they are often very well supported by their adherents. This presents a golden opportunity to "try on" various beliefs, to see where they fit well and where they wrinkle and sag. This process is not without its interpersonal difficulties, though, as you might well imagine.

As hard as this may be to believe, I don't "truly" believe anything I say - no specific belief is an immutable part of my self-identity (not even the belief that beliefs are not part of my self-image, if you get my drift). That means that I love it when people disagree with something I say, and there will always be someone who disagrees with me. Unfortunately, it also means that I can sometimes think and say things that others find unconscionable or offensive, and I'm always sorry when that happens.

In the end it's all in the interest of personal growth, one of the higher goods there can be in this life.

Remember, "Don't believe everything you think!"
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