If you’ve read the first two topics on “knowing,”
you can see that there are many things
we don’t know and never will know.
And yet we survive.
How do we do that?
We do it by adopting a few core beliefs that we use to explain
all the things we don’t understand.
These beliefs are helpful,
because they make us think we are right when we really need to believe it.
But every such belief is also wrong to some extent
because the truth is that much of the time
we just don’t know.
OPEN AND CLOSED SYSTEMS OF THOUGHT
Someone with an open-ended system of thought
knows that some day they might be proven wrong.
They aren’t afraid of being wrong,
so they are open to new information when it comes along.
Someone with a closed-ended system
believes they can never be proven wrong.
They always have a way of explaining away
any new information that comes their way.
“KISS AN ANGEL GOOD MORNING”
I was on my way to a workshop where I was going to teach about all this.
The radio was playing a country song that kept repeating:
“Kiss an angel good morning, and love her like the devil when you get back home.”
I decided I’d tell the class that I could explain
absolutely everything through this belief.
“Ask me anything,” I said.
Here are some of the questions I got,
and my answers to them:
“Why are so many people depressed?”
They don’t have a good lover to kiss in the morning
and love like the devil when they get back home.
“What about anxiety?”
They know they need that lover
and they worry that they’ll never get them or keep them.
“Why did W.W.II happen?”
So many people felt hopeless about having a lover that they were furious.
“What about heaven and a hell?”
Heaven provides a continuous lover.
Hell is being deprived of it forever.
All I needed to explain absolutely everything
was to start with the belief that I could do it!
(Try it yourself! Use any belief you like. It can be fun, especially in a group.)
To be right about absolutely everything
you only need to be so insecure
that you adopt an idea and fight to the death to maintain it.
If this seems like an exaggeration,
realize that every war was about two groups
who were each willing to die for their own closed-ended belief.
YOUR MOST BASIC CORE BELIEF
Try to identify your own core belief.
Yours is probably unique,
but a few of the most common ones are:
Take what you can get.
It’s all about honesty.
It’s all about love.
It’s all in God’s hands.
Everybody’s out to get you.
Just live for today.
A PERSONAL EXAMPLE
My own core belief is close to
“It’s all about love.”
It’s important for me to realize that my system cannot explain
Hitler and other such horrors.
I still like my system though,
because it explains more to me about how the world works than any other.
But I’m never shocked to learn
that there are things I just can’t explain.
Whatever your core belief is,
know there are going to be some big exceptions to it.
Be proud of yourself for noticing these exceptions when you find them.
Know also that if you find too many exceptions
you will eventually change your belief
to something you see as more reasonable.
It might be wise to see a therapist during this transition.
BEWARE OF CLOSED SYSTEMS
People with closed systems don’t get along
with anyone who disagrees with them.
And eventually that’s everyone.
They find themselves thinking and saying some quite ridiculous things
(like the “Kiss an Angel” stuff).
Those who are most intent about maintaining their beliefs
take the huge risk of going through an extremely painful emotional deterioration
when they finally have to face that their house of cards has fallen.
WHY HAVE ANY SYSTEM AT ALL?
We just have to.
We can do without it for a few weeks or months
but eventually we will need some way
to explain to ourselves
how everything we don’t understand works!
It’s the human condition.
So get used to saying:
“I may be wrong, but what I think is….”
OTHER TOPICS IN THIS SERIES
See all other topics in this series related to “Knowing.”
Read them all to get a good understanding about
how we know what we know
and how we distort our own reality.