The last post went through a consideration of the possibility of changing one’s beliefs. It is a task best considered worth undertaking for the sake of survival. Beliefs are also to be considered as a subject for change in the interest of preservation, longevity, and continuity. Our existing generations would not be the first to do so. However, we are better equipped and have the facilities to put our own or someone else’s beliefs through the process of examination. What is required to do so? Let us take a while to see how this can be done.
Detachment is needed to examine beliefs
Examining beliefs, especially one’s own, requires the ability to detach from them. The very first thing that comes to mind would be if it is even possible. Yes, if there is the willingness to do so, it is possible to detach in such a way as to be able to examine a belief. To detach is to separate from having an interest in the belief. One would have to show a willingness to consider oneself irrelevant. This is the challenge most people are afraid of. Such a challenge also pushes a person into the realm of what is seemingly impossible.
Should one be able to detach enough, one could then start seeing a belief in terms of its consequences. Is it important to do so? Yes, it is important. It is also important no to consider oneself of most relevance. We have today the ability to see beliefs that have an effect on not one or a few people, but on very large societies. Religious, cultural, and political beliefs immediately come to mind as relevant examples.
Looking at belief as a set of information for mental examination
This is not purely an intellectual or academic exercise. There are beliefs that have already been turned into reality…many such examples exist.
If we look at the example of nuclear weapons, do we not find it strange that entire nations went into the single-minded pursuit of such instruments of death! Yet, such weapons exist and in vast numbers. There is sufficient nuclear stockpile to destroy the planet and all life on it. Just consider this from the viewpoint of someone who has just become sensible enough to understand the implications. Think of a young person. What kind of optimism and future hope would a person have in light of such information? In actuality, it is those who wield such power that needs to have an understanding. Hindsight would suggest that it should have been done long ago.
We have today a generation, the majority of which exhibits an unusual level of self-absorption. The means for such through mobile phone technology also exists unlike ever before. However, instead of blaming them, would it not be wise to consider the reason they are this way?
The decline started long ago, and we have its effects to deal with
We cannot deny that the effect of ages of decisions is now weighing heavily upon all of mankind. The beliefs that humanity has pursued have ranged from strict adherence to some written code to absolute rebellion. What unique position do we have today?
We have today the unique ability to stand back or stand away from the beliefs that have brought us here. It would be tempting to conclude that mankind is a failure as a whole. This conclusion has weight, but we don’t have a practical alternative for such a condemnatory stand. Our reflection should still enable us to stop our pursuits. We should be able to stop, take stock, and consider a different direction.
Our reflection should still enable us to stop our pursuits.
A different vision
As far as it depends upon humans – there being many uninspiring examples among its leaders – we have to make a simple decision for our future. Do we seek life, or do we seek death?
When we will be able to revise our goals, we will also subsequently revise our predictions. There can be room left to expect that much can go wrong, but we have to have a basic preference for life over death. The greatest perversion of the human mind is when it seeks death rather than life. Why it happens and how can it be dealt with are another matter.
— Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg) December 29, 2017
We can count on the basic human affection for life over death because it is implanted deeply into the very heart. To have detached from the very desire for life for self and for others is the most dangerous idea, the most powerful weapon against all creation.