Musing Three

Musing Three

About six years ago my doctor told me I was pre-diabetic and prone to high cholesterol. I took up cycling. My first bike was a crossroads model that I rode over three thousand miles. But, I wanted something lighter; so, I switched to an endurance road bike. While being fitted to the bike, the shop owner noticed I was having trouble clearing the seat with my leg when mounting. He told me I shouldn’t hold the bike upright; but rather should tilt it towards me at about a 60-degree angle. It was a simple fix that I had never thought of. I believed I was doing it the right way all along.

A few months later, I was with a friend who was having the same trouble mounting her bike. This woman was an experienced group rider who had completed a 100-mile ride around Lake Tahoe to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Yet she didn’t know how to climb onto her bike. Once I showed her, she chuckled and said “Why didn’t I think of that?”
I bring this up because we both believed we were doing it right. And, as true believers, we did not question our methods. And this leads me to today’s musings: what are beliefs; are they just opinions or prejudices; are they all reversible; what does it take to reverse them; what makes a belief worthy of martyrdom?

To me, a belief is a construct that has no basis in fact. I may use facts as a foundation for a belief; but the belief itself will have no truth. For example, if I look at the NBA statistics in any given year, I could formulate the belief that the Warriors will win the pennant. The shooting percentages, win-loss records of all the teams could be the foundation for my belief; but the belief is just a belief. If they do win the pennant, it is no longer a belief; but a fact and a reward for my “faith”. If they do not win the pennant, then I can admit that my belief was wrong; or I can justify my belief by accusing the refs or the NBA of foul play.

Since a belief has no basis in fact; it is by its nature reversible. Its contradiction will also have no basis in fact; and be just as contradictable. When it comes to reversing a belief of mine, I, and only I, can do it. But, I have to choose to do so. This can be quite hard. It is easier to say, “the Warriors were cheated” than it is to say, “I was wrong.”

In his book, The True Believer, Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Eric Hoffer writes, “The beginning of thought is in disagreement – not only with others but also with ourselves.” I would argue that to develop our own humanity, we must disagree with ourselves before questioning the beliefs of others. From humility comes tolerance. If we take the time to understand why our belief system works for us, to question every aspect of it, we will be more likely to understand why it might not work for another. And as a result, we might be less likely to commit violence on ourselves or others.

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