I was talking with a friend recently who believes in Bigfoot. My friend is intelligent, philosophical, pragmatic and practical. When I found out he was a believer in Bigfoot I was surprised. At one time he was an avid outdoorsman and through his study and interviews with other people has been convinced by Bigfoot sightings and other evidence. When we talked about it I told him I didn’t believe in Bigfoot. There simply isn’t enough proof that people have seen what they think they saw or that the “evidence” is purposefully or accidentally being misinterpreted. However, I always make this caveat with my friend. “Just because I don’t believe in Bigfoot doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
Wisdom teaches us to be careful about our beliefs. Too often we want to force our convictions on another and convince them to think like we do. The first step on the path of wisdom is the truth that we know nothing. It is the first and only place to begin and exist. Wisdom is a paradox. The more we know, learn, practice, the more we don’t know.
We live in a world full of people convinced they see reality “as is” and if you don’t see it their way you’re wrong! Religion, politics, cultures, ethnicities, separate us into groups and life becomes about “us” and “them.” Maybe, if we listened attentively, spoke softly, and held our fragile beliefs as bubbles ready to pop any time and open us up to a world we didn’t even know existed, we’d celebrate humility instead of hubris.
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I’ve never been an optimist. I’m not sure what, in my childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood happened to make me look on the dark side of things but I do. Psychiatrists say that people with depression and anxiety have different way of seeing and thinking. One of the ways we differ is expecting the worst out of most situations. This feeds anxiety which also leaves us open for a depressive episode. Black and white thinking, feeling guilty for everything that goes wrong, all or nothing thinking are other ways our minds try to make sense of the world around us.
It is difficult but learning not to automatically accept my view of reality is a lesson I am learning and trying to put into practice. Examining our way of thinking and seeing the world is also a wisdom discipline. We each have biases, paradigms, views of life that have been shaped by where, when and how we were raised and what we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. Our environments, cultures, religious preferences, and more result in a worldview which few people seldom question. We assume the way we see the world, life, is how it should be and when it fails to meet our expectations and preferences we tend to judge the people, institutions, whoever and whatever refuses to submit to our viewpoints.
No longer being prisoners to our way of thinking can be one of the hardest places to escape from but it can lead us to a freedom few will ever know.
Everyone should have a friend who dances to their own music, marches to the beat of their own drummer. These special ones seem to walk a path that others cannot see and probably wouldn’t have the courage to navigate a path so culturally unconceived.
We seemingly live in a world where there are only two sides. These sides are chosen by litmus tests and depending on what you believe, where you stand on the issues, a label is slapped on you and you assume the responsibility and culpability of all others labeled and standing along side you. There is no nuance, no subtleties and we all suffer from it. Vitriol, disdain and hostility are hurled at those on the other side and our cultures are divided seemingly to never be brought together again.
I wonder if there are enough people who would dare to not accept this paradigm, view of life, of others. Are there enough folks who would put aside the expectations and be the exceptions to what our world demands? How many would choose to belong to the community of nuance, walk the road less traveled and dance to the music of the middle?