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Here's The Way I See It

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Posted by Paul R. Martin on September 4, 2003 18:13:49 UTC

Hi Mike,

Good question. The way I see it, living a life consists of two components. The components form a complementary pair that you could identify in many ways. For example, you might call the pair learning/doing, or experiencing/choosing, or receiving/giving, or input/output, or thinking/acting.

The first of these components is pretty much passive. We observe, experience, and think about what is happening around us. The only active part of this component is when we form attitudes and opinions about what we have experienced. These attitudes and opinions constitute our beliefs.

The second of the components is active. We use our will to choose our actions. Sometimes we choose actions because it seems to us that the action is consistent with our beliefs. When this is the case, we say that the action is based on faith. Faith is an expression of our confidence in our own beliefs. If we believe strongly enough in something, we take some deliberate action. For example, if we believe strongly enough that no car is coming, we deliberately step out into the street. Faith, then, is taking a risk by deliberately putting some skin in the game.

Life gets interesting, however, when some of our experiences begin to deliver information to us that contradicts some of our beliefs. You called that "losing your spiritual balance". When that happens, we have a few choices.

1. We can avoid or fail to notice the new information. This is commonly done by associating with, or taking seriously, only like-minded people, or by reading only books and articles by people with whose beliefs we agree. Or,

2. We can deny the information and hold to our beliefs. This is the classic debating posture where we use whatever tricks we can to prove that our beliefs are right and the opposing beliefs are wrong. Or,

3. We can accept the possibility that our beliefs are wrong. In this case, we need to do the work of evaluating competing beliefs in order to replace the ones that are in error.

Alternative 1 has a certain appeal. It provides the bliss of ignorance and the warmth of fellowship. In my view, most of humanity has chosen this option.

Alternative 2 also provides the warmth of fellowship and it also offers the excitement of conflict. Fanaticism is the extreme form of this option. I think fewer people -- fortunately -- have chosen this option.

Alternative 3 offers no bliss of ignorance, no supporting fellowship, and no certainty. It leaves one disoriented and fearful. But, over the course of a life, I am convinced that if you work at alternative 3, you will gradually draw nearer to the truth, which, at some point, will provide you with the peace of mind that surpasses what is offered by 1 and 2. Seek, and you shall find. (not original with me).

But then again, those are only my beliefs at this point in my life. I could be wrong.

Warm regards,

Paul

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