What if you were wrong?

rumi quote

I was thinking about a discussion I had enjoyed with a friend, about how our upbringing colours our worlds more than we realise. Both cultural and personal influences shape the images that imprint themselves upon the mind of the child and it is against these that we measure the experience of life in later years.

Life is a confusing thing sometimes and there is not always clear guidance on how best to live it. Social conduct and the parameters of acceptable behaviour differ from country to country. Laws and morality share many core tenets worldwide, but also throw up areas of wide disparity and within every nation there are even more variances dictated by local custom, heritage and the beliefs of a multicultural society.  There are as many ideas about what is the ‘right’ way to live as there are minds, hearts and rule-books to conceive them.

Many of our central values have grown from religious culture and the way it has been woven through human history. Regardless of whether or not an individual subscribes to a particular faith, the social code in which he or she grows will have been influenced by such beliefs. The echoes of our cultural history cast a long shadow and define the images that we choose to accept or deny in later years. Many people say they do not believe in a divinity, yet when asked what they do believe in, it becomes clear that all they deny is the image they would have learned about as a child. The shadow of those childhood images helps to shape, in acceptance or denial, the way we move through our lives.

Even without a detailed knowledge of religion, most of us have some kind of belief about what happens after death and this also informs the way we live. Some see only oblivion and a return to the elements of earth.  Others see a wheel of rebirth, a cycling of the soul through reincarnation and karma Yet others see some form of afterlife, either in a spirit realm or a paradise… or some less pleasant realm.  There are almost infinite variations of thought, but once we have found the one that speaks to us of its reality, it becomes, in many ways, the yardstick of conscience.

The deeper the belief of what happens after death, the more of an influence it becomes in life. We may seek to be worthy of a place in paradise, or to escape the maw of the nether regions… or believe that the karmic scales must be balanced …or that we owe it to ourselves as members of the human race.

Yet… what if we are wrong? We have no objective proof that any of these are the right way forward. We don’t even know for certain that there is ‘a’ right way. Maybe they are all right… or all wrong. Does it really matter?

Mankind has always argued about religious belief. Wars have been fought, schisms have occurred over the interpretation of a single word, millions have suffered and died for the belief that there can be right and wrong beliefs.

Yet ‘belief’ is defined as ‘an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof’ it is ‘an assumed truth’. Even our understanding of the world is based upon beliefs we have formed through experience. The very definition of the word makes our arguments both futile and ludicrous. We may disbelieve a belief that contradicts our own… but inherent in both is the possibility that it might be wrong.

Belief can only be a personal thing and when it inspires us, as individuals and members of the human family, to do the best we can to be the best we can, how can any such belief be wrong? Perhaps all that matters is that we follow the dictates of our own inner being and live our lives ‘as if’ our beliefs will carry us home.

14 thoughts on “What if you were wrong?

  1. Excellent post, Sue. What you have written also points to why preschool is important. If I can open a child’s mind, s/he has a larger and stronger foundation upon which to grow.

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  2. Eight years age I stumbled one a TEDtalk titled “on being wrong by Kathryn Schulz. What an epiphany. I have become a different person as it relates to the notion of our shared propensity for being wrong a lot. I now feel grateful for my wrongness. Think about it. If you what to be right then being wrong is a perfect opportunity to get right back on the correct express. Chew, chew, I have a private car. Being wrong is now not only not threatening is can be exhilarating.

    Nice post.

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    1. Knowing we are wrong, or even not wholly right, leaves us open to continued learning. The moment we believe we have all the answers, we are closed to all the wondrous things we might encounter and from which we could learn. That would be a narrow existence…

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  3. That is so profound, Sue, and it makes total sense at least to me. More and more the daily news, be it on the TV, the Internet, the radio or over the fence from neighbors brings so much confusion to what we already have in mind on the reality that we believe in, or we think is reality. I don’t think I have lived through a period more filled with confusion and lack of understanding of what is and is not true and if there is a way to get beyond it. I am glad that I am at this time on my life, and not that of someone just beginning life, though I have no clue as to what happens when that day comes that I am no longer the form I was, or perhaps not even the same person, or any person at all, not even a creature or a plant or a grain of sand. In the end result, is there any way to know that something is real or not? If there is some grain of truth somewhere from what we all believe, per perhaps don’t? Would I recognize it if I saw or came in contact with it? And would it stay the truth over time, or would it change as other things change in the universe? I have been seeing some pretty strange things in the public media and I keep wondering about these things. Thank you kindly. Excellent thought-provoking writing.

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    1. I think it depends upon whether we are shortsightedly looking at truth as being factual and verifiable… or seeking some glimmer of what we might call ‘Cosmic Truth’, which may have nothing to do with what we, in our little human lives, can perceive of an ever-evolving, but already perfect reality.

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