Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Reshaping Reality To Fit My Beliefs

When I was studying abnormal psyche back in the day, the professor brought our attention to a case study of a man who believed he was a corpse. One day a doctor asked him if corpses bled. The Walking Dead guy said, “Of course not!”

Dr: So if I prick your finger with this needle, as a corpse, you will not bleed?

Walking Dead Guy: Correct.

The doctor then pricked the man’s finger and it instantly began bleeding.

Walking Dead Guy: I’ll be … I guess corpses do bleed!

To some degree or another, we are all like this Walking Dead Guy, in so far as we choose to reshape facts and reality to fit our belief-systems, rather than the other way around. It’s understandable, of course, because, depending on how deeply held the beliefs, our egos are tied to them. I am my beliefs, ergo, if I am wrong about them, then there is something “wrong” with me. With this mindset, being wrong is then a mortifying and psychologically shattering experience. This is why people so often militantly resist those whose belief systems are contrary to their own. It has nothing to do with facts, logic, or the truth, only the guarding of ego.

This is why it is often a waste of oxygen to argue with people. Unless you get down to core beliefs and presuppositions, even if you “win the argument” regarding the issue at hand, the “convert” will soon return to thinking and believing as he did before your discussion. Core beliefs win out. Always.

Rather than thinking of others, however, make this personal and ask yourself these three questions:

“What does being wrong mean to me?” (How do you experience being wrong?)

“What are ten great things that can come from discovering I am wrong about something or someone?”

“How would I know if I am wrong?”

Good hunting.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

When The Universe Messes With Us

Whose work is it but your own to open your eyes? But indeed the business of the universe is to make such a fool out of you that you will know yourself for one, and begin to be wise. --George MacDonald

One day, back when I was in High School, I was helping my girlfriend repair something at her house. After mucking around a while, I told her that I needed some masculine tape.

Her: Excuse me?
Me: Masculine tape. I. Need. Masculine. Tape.
Her: (Laughing so uncontrollably that she could barely speak) Do you mean masking tape?

What did I do? I went home and blamed my parents.

By the time we are around 30, we have had quite a number of such humbling revelations; we discovered we were wrong on some small and not so small issues and beliefs, and, at least once, experienced the jaw dropping realization that the “God ordained” Yellow Brick Road we were skipping down did not take us to Oz but ended in a cul de sac filled with wild beasts that wanted to eat us. Subsequently, many of us learned to be a bit humbler in our assertions and, thereby, began exhibiting some wisdom. Others of us, however, refuse to acknowledge and own our errors and, instead, act as if nothing we do or say ever is wrong or, while we adjust our beliefs and behaviors, pretend that, “Masking tape: that’s what I said. You just misunderstood me.”  For the universe, this is the equivalent of placing a bull’s eye on your back.

Repeat after me:

I don’t know what I do not know … until life or someone else shows me. It is masking tape, bozo! The appropriate response here is, “Thank you, deary,” not, “How dare you!”

I only see what I am looking for. (Conformation bias) So. How much time do we spend searching for “evidence to the contrary” before we began sounding like Moses coming down from the mountain with the two tablets?

We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are. (Anais Nin) The beginning of accepting our human condition is admitting that we do not possess God-like objectivity and, therefore, only possess glimmers of reality. At best.  My perceptions are always biased, always colored, and always skewed, to some degree. There is, therefore, always room for more Truth and humility.

It’s not just “okay” to discover I was wrong about something. It is a blessing. Would you rather still be wrong? This is the awesome thing about true friends: they have no problem needling us, helping us to see and laugh at our errors, and keeping us humble. This is also where our enemies are quite useful. They take incredible delight in searching for and pointing out our errors in judgment, our missteps, and mishaps. Thank you, God, for the light they cast on our lives, even if their motives are base.

What? Do you think that you can ever attain God-like knowledge about anything?  Do you think that all of your theological/philosophical/political/ethical ducks are in a row with no need for getting rid of the Daffy Ducks that don’t belong? Man, I’ve had to shoot so many ducks it’s a wonder PETA isn’t busting down my doors.

St Augustine said, “I err, therefore I am.” Being wrong is part of being human. This being our reality, why is it, then, that when our errors are pointed out we spend so much energy denying, covering over, or defending and justifying our selves, as if being wrong wasn’t The Norm for us all? What we do not see is that in playing these games, in refusing to embrace our humanity here, we restrict our ability to continue learning and increasing in understanding. How foolish is this? No wonder the universe keeps messing with us.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2015