I often engage in conversations with friends and family whose political and social beliefs differ from mine.
The core divergence almost inevitably lands on personal responsibility vs. environmental impact arguments.
Politicized nature vs. nurture, I suppose.
The trees or the Forest.
Another analogy I like, but which I always need to explain so it’s ultimately sucky as a concise teaching tool, is looking out of a telescope the intended way (…or forest) vs. looking out of a telescope through the other side (…uh, trees). Too much, right? I know, but I like it. So now I’ve delivered to you in a complex linguistic package because, dammit, that’s how I roll.
I’ve generally fallen on the side of arguing for nurture/environment/history/forest, particularly as it relates to the current state of historically oppressed, colonized, enslaved, or otherwise marginalized communities. I realize that I’ve come a long way from where anyone might have predicted given my socioeconomic status at birth. However, even then I tend to look toward critical human influencers/teachers/gurus in addition to systemic social safety nets and supports (i.e. welfare, food stamps, free lunch, no lead, free healthcare, federal post-secondary education grants, being born a straight white Christian male, and low interest loans with interest deferments) along the way rather than my pure self-determination.
Thus, this makes me more liberal and them more conservative. I guess. But nothing is ever that simple.
I’ve enumerated the salient conversational points from these recent interactions.
- I am a self-made man, personally responsible for all of my behaviors, successes and failures. Get out of my way and allow me to continue this journey of self-determined, dogged, eventual independence and realization.
- I am a man socially determined, born into a familial context and community that leverages permissions and constraints according to predetermined norms and rules and a socioeconomic milieu which, at least in part if not largely, determines my accessibility and exposure to experiences that determine my knowledge, passion, and drive toward independence and realization.
- I am a man made of the historical thread that led to the blip of occurrence I call “my life,” a flame passed from candle to candle across generations and millennia.
- I am a man bound by genetic and biological prescription.
- Everything is chance.
- All things are predetermined.
- There is an ultimate reality (i.e. God[s]) beyond my ability to perceive that is/are personal and directly impacting “my life.”
- There is an ultimate reality (i.e. god, tao [the way/truth], buddha-nature [impermanence]) beyond my ability to perceive that is impersonal and general, pervasive yet having no specific “care” for my comings, goings, and doings.
- There is no ultimate reality (e.g. atheism, nihlism) beyond what we can and have perceived.
- There are possibilities I am not considering here.
- Any or no combination of the above might be true. It depends. (On?) I don’t know.
All of these assertions comprise things that one might think or believe and are not necessarily different constructs of reality or ultimate truth. Furthermore, I’ve become attached to my “I think/believe…” constructs so fully that my brain interprets them as absolute truth and then I approach the world from a distorted, biased, narrow view. And when I meet you, if your distorted, biased, narrow view generally aligns with mine, we become friends. Otherwise, we become enemies.
But none of that helps. And none of it IS TRUE.
I’m basing decisions, judgments, and behaviors purely on a fiction created in my head.
And so are you.
Because…if you’re reading this you’re human, and that’s what humans do.
So then, rereading the above list I ask myself, “What do you believe?”
It’s 11, and since it’s 11 that means I need to travel the earth with greater present-mindfulness, self-reflection, awareness, contemplation, openness, and optimistic skepticism.
Why optimistic? Because it feels better. Not necessarily right. But better.
Ultimately, THIS is the conversation I want to be having with as many people as are willing to engage. Furthermore, if I desire to have a more representative sample of “everyone,” then I must seek people who generally oppose the worldview (2+3+4+8+10) to which I’ve traditionally clung like a security blanket tied to the top of a hundred story building in gusting winds.
It’s time to let go.
What’s the worst that can happen?
We die not knowing in any case.
But right now, we’re all alive and those possibilities are perfectly acceptable.
So why do I continue to cling?
Because dying scares me.
Because being wrong scares me.
And because dying being wrong terrifies me.
That’s STILL no reason to cling.
So…I let go.