Many of us hold on tightly to our core beliefs. In a world where it is easy to get lost in the shuffle, we use our beliefs, our worldview, to carve out an identity for ourselves. It is only natural. Our core beliefs give us a sense of grounding in the shifting sands of the modern world. And yet, the writing is on the wall. If we are to survive as a species, and more than that, if we are to bring a sense of hope to this world, we owe it to ourselves to ask if at least some of our deeply held beliefs make any sense. Because in a very real sense, it may very well be that our clinging on to false belief is at the heart of what is wrong in this world.
We come to believe the things we do in a variety of ways. Most of us are born into a certain worldview, a belief system, and we naturally accept as true the things we are taught at a young and tender age. It is certainly easier join in and play along than to defy conventional wisdom. Others come to believe in certain notions because they want those notions to be true. In other words, some people believe what they want to believe, and for some of them at least, the truth is just a side issue. And still in other cases, a person’s mind and imagination can be hijacked by people with a certain agenda or ulterior motive. In this case, a person could be persuaded to believe certain things, things he would not ordinarily come to believe, because he has been persuaded to do so by those who would manipulate his thinking for their own purposes. Suicide bombers are a case in point.
Regardless of how we come to believe the things we do, some beliefs make sense, and some do not. Many of us have come to believe things that make no sense, and that would be difficult to justify using rational thought. There are numerous example of false belief: the belief that God would have us kill one another in His name no less when it is precisely He who created us in the first place, the belief that there is any measure of “honor” in “honor killing,” the belief that holding on to yet another piece of land is more important than brokering a just and lasting peace, the belief that a weapon of mass destruction will bring security to a regime that is out of step with the will of its people, the belief that it is just dandy to keep running our economies on fossil fuels, the belief that our set of religious beliefs make us somehow superior to those of a different point of view, the belief that it is okay to keep women down even as we need them so desperately to lift us back up, and the list goes on and on…
We don’t have to be prophets to read the writing on the wall. The stubborn clinging to false belief is bringing us ever more closely to the edge of the abyss. Previously local problems, like water shortages, or climate change, are quickly becoming global problems. Environmental threats are growing exponentially. Political and economic instability in one country can easily wreak havoc in an entire region. Weapons of mass destruction in the wrong hands can be used to re-write the destiny of man. Religious discord, which has been around for thousands of years, takes on added dimensions in a world where technology has not kept pace with what is wise and prudent.
There was a time, not too long ago, when people used more of their common sense. Civilization has been around for some 10,000 years, yet we have been around as a species for some 2,000,000 years. Before there was religion, and politics, and technology, there were the cavemen, who had nothing to rely on but their common sense to survive yet another day. They hunted and gathered, and since no one really had much of anything, there was no real reason to kill or steal. It made more sense, in the hostile environment they found themselves, to help one another out, to “…treat others as you would have them treat you…” A movie on The Discovery Channel called The Rise of Man makes the point that The Golden Rule underscored the thinking of the cavemen.
To my mind, common sense is what we were given, by our Creator, to bring a semblance of order to our lives. People think of common sense in different ways: the wisdom of the common man, the wisdom born of shared experience, etc. I think of common sense as the intuitive wisdom to conform our thoughts and actions to universally shared truths and values. Don’t blow a circuit, it’s not all that complicated. The intuitive wisdom is the wisdom that comes from within. It’s inside you. Thoughts and actions because it is not enough to think straight, you have to act on what you know to be true. Truths and values; truths are the realities we perceive, values are the realities we aspire to. And why are these truths and values universal? Certain truths and values are so rational, so logical, and so self-evident, that they are universally perceived as true, and therefore universally accepted.
As an example, here are three universal truths; the big three so to speak: The Golden Rule, The Golden Mean, and The Greatest Good. I call these the 3-G’s for short. The Golden Rule tells us to treat one another as we would have them treat us. The Golden Mean tells us that truth is not an extremist position, but is to be found somewhere in the middle between two extremes. And The Greatest Good would have us do what brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number.
What if we could use our common sense, including the 3-G’s, to inspire in one another a sense of hope, and to bring a sense of order to this dangerous and often volatile world? What if The Golden Rule would have us treat each other well by Investing in one another to create jobs: jobs which grow our economies, jobs which protect the environment, and jobs which help to weaken the hold of extremist thinking? What if The Golden Mean would have us think straight by using our common sense as our Ideology? And what if The Greatest Good would have us maximize justice by organizing ourselves around a vision of Hope, a vision of peace, prosperity, and freedom? Put it all together, as Thomas Jefferson might have done, and the answer for world peace becomes not all that complicated, “We find this truth to be self-evident: Ideology plus Investment equals Hope, and with hope all things are possible, even the impossible dream of peace.
Yes, we find ourselves in troubling times. We sense that things are coming to a head, that history is playing itself out even as we speak. And we know that if things go wrong, they will go very wrong indeed. So what is the answer? What is the answer that could inspire a sense of hope in things to come?
Well, no one has the entire answer. That would be asking too much. But my sense is that at the heart of the matter is a need to re-think at least some of what we happen to believe, in favor of what makes more sense. We all believe in this or that. It makes us who we are. But it may be necessary, at this point in time, to filter our beliefs through the filter of common sense, to let go of some of our beliefs, in favor of something we can believe in even more. It may be necessary, in our time, to let go of who we are, so that we can discover an even better version of ourselves. It may be necessary to re-create ourselves in a new light, a light that shines as a beacon of hope, and that points to the realization of a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom.