Friday, March 30, 2018


Swimming with them (2018)
Sometimes people find me interesting. I tend to think, though, it's more that EVERYTHING is interesting, but people don't seem to notice how, until I point it out. Then, they might think it's me who's interesting. I'm actually pretty boring in here. It's the world, that's interesting. 

It seems to be true that there are aspects of reality that only I can see, or at least, only I, in the immediate vicinity.

But just because I'm genius about a few random things doesn't mean I'm not inconveniently stupid about others. I bump against my stupid all the time, like a force field. I get so impatient with it. When I learn a new thing I don't revel in the pride of learning, but squirm with the shame of not having known it already.

Then I shrug and lumber on, until the current picks me up again.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Wise Fool and the Unprovable Premise

Faith always requires a choice to accept an unprovable premise. 

Beneath (CAI 2018)
Fundamental differences of understanding generally trace back to the unprovable premises that people have, knowingly or not knowingly, accepted as true. Each person's understanding of the world rests on a foundation of beliefs about the nature of life. How those beliefs are formed, and what they encompass, differs greatly by person. How strong a foundation they provide also varies wildly.

Our foundation of accepted beliefs lets us build an understanding of the world on top of it. Instead of swimming helplessly in the current, tossed about, trying to catch breath, we feel like we're standing on raft. We can build a shelter, settle in to the ride, figure out how to best navigate.

In my experience, very, very few humans can withstand the discomfort of questioning an unprovable premise that occupies a foundational place on their raft. The better shelter they've built, the more unwilling they are to allow the question at all.

When your logical mind observes a set of data, satisfies itself as to the meaning of the data, and accepts that meaning as your Truth, it becomes physically very difficult for the brain to actually take in any new information that contradicts what you now believe.

But  I can say this for sure: unless everyone alive believes what you believe, then you are missing something they are seeing. 

The shores of my belief (CAI 2018)
Yes, you are also seeing something they are missing. Maybe you're completely right and they are completely wrong, but it doesn't actually matter. They are seeing something different from you. Wouldn't it behoove you to find out what that is? After all, we only have our own small data set from which to make decisions.

Asking is no good. Most people, if they get up the gumption to ask about an opposing opinion, are already ready to defend against the answer. They are listening to educate, not to understand. They are listening so they can put a hole in the argument that the other person holds dear, or provide a proof that will nullify the other person's concerns.

They forget the possibility that the other person's concerns may have validity. 

Most people think that the Truth they've accepted must somehow be universal, and they simply need to teach other people to see the way they see. We see this from individual to institutional and societal systems. If I am right, you must be wrong, so let me show you how I'm right and you're wrong and then you can think rightly, like me.

It always strikes me as so wasteful. all this brandishing of weapons over the idea of Truth.

I like to remind myself, now and again, that no matter how much I might disagree or dislike the idea of what someone else believes, they probably have a point.

Every single person comes by their opinions honestly. 

Everyone's set of Fundamental Beliefs (Heartfelt Beliefs) come from a combination of a million factors, including their nature,  body, childhood situation, access to supports and resources, religion, culture, education, family, and experiences. People earn their opinions through hard-won processing. They earn their right to their beliefs as a life raft on the unknown currents of life.

Because let's be clear.

We don't know why we are here.  

We don't know why life exists, let alone HOW, or even, really, WHERE or WHEN we are in the scope of all possible reality. We don't know how small we are. We don't know how most of the universe works, and the things we've figured out, we've used to advance some pretty evil agendas by some very twisted souls, which mostly started out as just being stupid but quickly devolved into all-out war between the Very Powerful and Everyone Else over the fate of a rare life-breeding planet we are killing.

The Meaning (CAI 2018)
We don't know how we got here, though scientists have a pretty strong story to tell. Then again, we don't know if the scientists are even real, since everything we know we get from third, fourth, fifth-hand sources who repeat what they learned along the way. Maybe they're actors, like the moon landing :) Theologians also have a lot to say, and their sources seem fairly well preserved and researched, carried through history by masses of people. But who were those people, and what biases did they allow in?

We don't go to the moon, or observe experiments ourselves. We don't read all the sacred texts, or review all the documents of an historical period or dig bones and date them. We're told that some other humans, somewhere, know how to do these things, and we're told what they apparently found out by doing them. We decide if we trust these sources or not. We decide if we believe what they say. We form our understanding of Earth, the Universe, Life.  When the things they say seem to hold true, can be experienced first hand, or conveniently support our preferred views, we might accept them as Reality. When a lot of people accept similar versions as Reality, we get the Consensus View, which is then treated as the default reality.

But at the end of the day, we just don't know how it all works. 

We don't know what's real or true. We can't know. We just can't know. If it were knowable, if all the data were in, then we couldn't compute it with our primitive, puny brains. For all the science there is, with all the tools we have, we barely understand anything at all. We can't experiment here with inputs beyond the plane we inhabit. We don't have the tools to measure what we don't know is there because our senses are so few. We are very limited creatures.

No one knows for sure.  If anyone says they know what is true, what is real, what to believe, I feel that person has simply accepted some unprovable premise on which to build their confident knowing. That's okay with me. I think we have to. I think at some point, we have to accept some unprovable premises and build our understanding on them. It's important to acknowledge what they are, and talk about why we've accepted them. It breeds common understanding, a basis for peace.

For some, that is accepting a religion, a tradition of understanding about the world that millions of people have studied and practiced before, based on a set of premises that a person is willing to accept. I understand that choice.

My own raft is not sturdy enough to build a shelter on. My raft is a single strip called "I don't know." I live on the plank of unknowing. I inhabit the space. I ride it like a surfboard through the clutter that tries to take my mindshare.

What happens when I die? I don't know. I have some ideas, and most people don't seem to like them, though they suit me fine. I think my Self is a product of animal body (of the Earth) and energy (of the Ether), so when the body goes back to the Earth and the energy dissipates into the Ether, the Self just sparks out. But maybe, when I die, I will face a wrathful god and eternal hellfire. Millions of people think so. Maybe, when I die, I will be reborn into another body on Earth. Millions of people think so. Maybe, when I die, I will be rewarded in heaven for my life of virtue. Millions of people think so. Maybe they are right. Maybe they are all right. Maybe they are all wrong. Probably, actually.

Probably everyone is wrong.

But if they are right, there's nothing I can do about it. I can't make myself accept an unprovable premise that doesn't spark my willingness, and I haven't found one single thing to believe that doesn't ask for faith at some point along the information chain. So I choose. I deliberately put my FAITH in the ideas that make the most sense to me, line up best with my observations and experience. The ones I like because they match what I value most. I choose what I believe, and act as though those things were true. I behave like they are the truth of reality, and I let them go when they don't stand up or serve me. This makes me curious. I stay open to the likelihood that my beliefs are not correct, so I'm always looking for more information to shift them. At the same time, I honour my choices.

Gems of Perspective (CAI 2018)
I choose ideas that allow for some fun, some random, some magic, some chaos, some justice, some happy ending in sight. Why not? I let them in, play with them, entertain them, and then let them go. It seems to me that the reality I choose has just as much proof to back it up as the consensus view I'm asked to live by, but that consensus reality is increasingly hostile, stressful and unhappy. I don't pick it.

After all, I only live once, maybe. 

But other people see things very differently. They might be right. I'm probably wrong. So it behooves me to understand why they see things the way they do, to decide if I want to sprinkle any portion of their reasoning into my own soup of understanding.

It's not easy to engage ideas that threaten the few bits of life raft under my feet. I understand why people don't. But eventually, someone else's reality bumps up against mine, and we have to figure out how we fit together. When that happens, I hope that they will let go of their need to believe that what they believe is right so what I believe must be wrong, and that I will have the grace to do the same. And so we go in the world, together. Unless we are willing to allow for different realities to exist in the same three dimensional space, honouring the reality of another person when it goes against our very core, we are fools to think we seek peace. What we seek is power, the power to assert our view of reality as the only truth. 

I don't know. I am probably not right. 

So, I try to live as though I seek peace, every stumble a reminder that I am a wise fool.

What Colour is the Ocean? (CAI 2018)