Archive for the ‘belief’ Category

Baby Blues

Perspective is a fascinating concept. Something heavily reliant on the tangible and yet impossible to grasp. We collect information about our physical, mental, emotional, and socialĀ surroundings through the use of our senses, reason, and intuition. Then, this information is gathered together with the vast processing powers of our minds and interpreted. This interpretation provides us with our general sense of our selves, our understanding of our place in this world, and an indication of the direction we are going in relation to all that we have observed and with which we have interacted.

Because our perspective is so readily dependent on input, it can be easily guided through such things as censorship. In some cases, it may even be necessary to use a metaphorical set of blinders in order to block out unwanted information, so that an individual can remain focused on a desired goal without distraction. When we know our destination lay at the end of a “straight and narrow” path, and we know the surroundings to be filled with such sights, sounds, and smells that might deter us or cause us to veer off course, we will consciously choose to ignore those distractions, put on our blinders, and accept only that information which keeps us steadily plotting ahead, striving to reach the light at the end of our tunnel.

This self-censorship is very typical of the religious and is construed as having an “eternal perspective”. From birth to death, believers of all faiths are given the guidelines that will steer them clear of distractions and keep them plodding forward. In the Mormon faith, for example, believers are told that they must “hold to the iron rod” while walking through the fog of life, as this rod (the gospel) will lead them through their struggles until they reach their desired end – a tree bearing fruit more wonderful than anything they could ever taste; “the pure love of Christ”. Each step on the path is plotted and charted carefully: from nursery to primary, cub scouts to Aaronic Priesthood, Eagle Scout to Melchizedek Priesthood, mission to temple, wedding to family, genealogy to proxy work, church service and callings to enduring to the end…

No matter how tightly one adheres to this path, however, small smidgens of information find their way past the carefully placed blinders. A rock in the road, a branch in the path, a trip over a root… The ever dreaded distractions striving to convince believers to let go their rod, and take a look around. Tempting as these little appetizers may seem, when one is determined to maintain their “eternal perspective”, it becomes second nature to ignore.. and keep trudging forward. But to what end? What exactly are these believers striving for? What is it about this censored perspective that makes it “eternal”?

Those born into a believing home are taught early to follow in the footsteps of their parents. They are told of a life beyond this life, a life in which some great all-powerful being has prepared a heavenly reward. In Christian faiths, this deity created our world as a testing ground for us, the lucky conglomeration of atoms that happened to have been formed in His image, as it pleased Him, and given free-will to think and choose for ourselves. Mortality is only a temporary “fallen” state in which we are to exercise that ability as we see fit, and when we die we will face punishment for poor choices, mercy and forgiveness for repentance, and rewards for our good deeds. In this “eternal perspective”, the “blinders” keep us honest, true, faithful, and loyal so that we may capitalize on the potential blessings our creator has planned for His most faithful followers and worshipers.

The eternal perspective is described as one of progress. It is a perspective which encourages individuals to “keep on keeping on” when times become difficult. It is a perspective which requires individuals to think of every action, every thought, every word, every deed or misdeed in relation to eternity. It is a perspective which makes light of physical pain, turmoil and suffering, because it is only a temporary ordeal that (if endured well) will strengthen individual spirits and prove their worth in the eyes of their divine creator.

But it is a faulty perspective.

What is so interesting about perspective, is that it can not only be easily guided and directed, but easily changed. When the self-imposed blinders are removed, a whole world of information comes flooding in. As promised, it can be distracting and overwhelming. Even terrifying. Someone brought up to willfully put up blinders and ignore anything that doesn’t steer them down their predetermined path will be ill prepared for processing the wealth of sensory input available. Given time though, it is possible to adjust. Given guidance, it is possible to learn strategies for filtering through the information – determining what is useful, what is faulty, what is important, what is unimportant, what is reliable, what is applicable… what is TRUE.

Following a narrow perspective with a singular focus is dangerous. It is dangerous because it can be so easily disturbed, so easily spun on it’s axis, so easily turned upside down. When an individual spends their entire life focused on a narrow path with a narrow goal, when something comes along from the “blind zone” and forces an altered view, that individual is not prepared to deal with the shock. They may utterly reject the altered perspective because it is too overwhelming, readjust their course, and continue on, choosing to ignore the resultant trauma and pretend it never happened. But this still leaves them unprepared for any future interruptions, and now their foundation is shaky, leaving them vulnerable.

The eternal perspective, supposedly, provides followers with “the big picture”. It takes all the many ordeals of life, all its challenges, all its struggles, and gives it structure. A story. A plot. A purpose. It is supposed to be a wide and all-encompassing view that takes all that we see and feel and interpret, and places it on a grand canvas in a glorious scheme designed for our benefit. But in practice, all this perspective does is force followers onto a predetermined course, funnel them down a predestined chute, and force them through a prefixed set of standard motions. It is faulty because it fails in providing a “true” interpretation of the vast wealth of information available to our senses.

It is utterly impossible to see and understand the promised “big picture” while wearing blinders that keep you trudging down a narrow tunnel, just waiting to reach the light at the “end”. Those determined to defend their narrow perspective have even gone so far as to claim that it is impossible for us “mere mortals” to comprehend the “big picture” at all, because our mortality necessitates this narrow view, and we will never in this life be capable of perceiving all that “God” perceives. When encouraged to remove their blinders and consider those evidences which would provide great insights into the questions they claim unanswerable, they thrust any and all such confounding information aside under the premise that it will all make sense “in the end”, when the “veil” is removed and we see the world as God sees it.

But it is possible to experience life without blinders. WITHOUT a “veil”. WITHOUT following a narrow course. It is possible to engage with all our senses, to explore all the sights, sounds, smells, textures… and learn to filter and process the wealth of information at our fingertips WITHOUT insisting on maintaining tunnel vision. And it is only in this manner that our perspective truly becomes “eternal”.

We need to start as babes. We need to teach our children that instead of curbing passions and conforming to a rigid standard, they should be sating their curiosity and exploring to their heart’s content. They should be learning how to “perceive” their world from MULTIPLE angles. Expand on their creativity. Encourage their inquisitive minds. Expound on their sensory play. When our children are given opportunity to question and inquire, they will be better prepared to process all the many experiences life will toss their way.

Those things which were supposed distractions will become mere pieces in the puzzle of life. Those things previously perceived as stumbling blocks on the path toward “eternal life” will become mere curiosities to be unraveled with rigorous inquiry. Those “appetizers” of information will become building blocks of discovery. Rather than assuming we know all we “need” to know and that all further answers to life’s questions will be provided at some undisclosed “hereafter”, we can be inspired to dig, expound, and improve on that which we can perceive and thus understand.

There is little progress in a perspective that remains rigid and unchanging, for such is the perspective of one who fails to explore. We are expanded – mind, body, and soul – when we seize the opportunities to alter our perspective. When we seek to alter our perceptions. When we change up the pace. When we strive to obtain the as-yet unobtained input. Every time we take a moment to change our perspective, we learn something new, and THAT is progress.

It’s hard to look upon a carefree child and not feel a sense of awe and inspiration. Every babe born into this world is a clean slate of trust, hope, and optimism. To look upon a baby’s smile, to hear a child laugh… it strikes a chord deep in the soul, and I don’t think there’s ever been a single person who did not wish they could somehow preserve such pure innocence. Perhaps the knowledge that it is only temporary is what makes it so beautiful, for that which is fleeting has value beyond measure.

As parents, while we certainly hope to prepare our offspring for the hardships of the world, I think we each hold tightly to a secret fantasy. A fantasy in which our children need no preparation, no protection, no preservation. A fantasy in which the pure joy of innocent laughter and untainted smiles lives on forever, never to be tainted or damaged by the toils and turmoil of struggle and suffering. In our subconscious efforts to make this fantasy a reality, we spin tales of wonder and excitement, and we revel in the sweet trust our children place in the hopeful stories of our youth.

Magical kingdoms of fairies. Hidden societies of gnomes, leprechauns, or “little people”. Mystical unicorns. Myths and fables which light up the imagination and bring a sparkle of joy to eyes so full of wonder and curiosity. Eventually though, the fairy tales always fall apart. Innocence is lost as children gain experience and come to face reality. Their brains develop with astounding intelligence, and with critical thinking skills honed for discovery, they begin to find the faults in the stories. Probably one of the most memorable and cherished stories to which nearly every child clings is that of Santa Claus, jolly ole Saint Nick, the loving, caring and affable man in the big red suit.

Our children start noticing inconsistencies and asking questions. Parents, often, cannot stand the thought of losing the joy and wonder that blessed previous Christmas celebrations, as their child lit up with excitement to discover the presents delivered magically under their tree on Christmas morning. Instead of encouraging this critical development and taking the opportunity to teach their children how to employ those thinking skills, parents lie and continue to fabricate the fairy tale, now spinning a web of deceit and even mistrust.

How does Santa get into the homes of children with no chimney? How does Santa reach all the children in the world in one night? How does Santa know who’s been naughty or nice? How does Santa know what toy every little girl and boy wants? How does Santa get into and out of the house unseen? How does Santa make all the toys? Why do all the Santa’s we see at parties or malls or supermarkets look different? Why does Santa’s handwriting on my present look like my mothers? Why were the presents from Santa hidden in my parent’s bedroom closet a week before Christmas? Why did I see my father putting presents under the tree, and not Santa? Has anyone ever seen the “real” Santa?

The questions build and build without end, as the puzzle becomes harder and harder for those amazingly intelligent children to piece together. Some children realize the problem quickly and give up the hope, give up the magic. Others have a much harder time letting go. They put their imaginations to use, thinking up more and more convoluted scenarios that explain away all the inconsistencies and allow them to cling to their belief. Some even go so far as to declare that while it may be impossible to understand, while there may be glaringly obvious evidences to the contrary, as long as they believed … Santa would still be real. There would still be hope. There would still be magic. There would still be that impossibly loving and mystical man who brought presents to all the good little girls and boys every year. As long as they believed…

It is my thought that all of us; man, woman, and child; cling to our beliefs in the unknown, the immeasurable, the fantastical, because we are in denial. We do not want to face the hardships of reality, because we do not feel ourselves capable of bearing the pain. Reality is often cruel and unkind. Reality contains stories of horror, sorrow, and incomprehensible suffering. Reality contains illness and disease, handicaps and imperfections, accidents and miscalculations, murders and war, loss and death. We cling to the magic, to the hope, to the belief, because the pain of life is so often unbearable.

But we do ourselves a disservice in thinking so. For while reality is often a struggle, it also brings with it great joys, and those joys often cannot be fully realized without letting go of the delusions of the heart. We waste effort and energy in clinging to fantasies that provide a sort of protective barrier from the physical and mental turmoils of life, because it is only when we embrace reality that we can begin to solve the very problems that plague our existence. When we allow ourselves to accept the logical conclusions, to trust our own minds, to follow the evidences provided by our senses, experiences, intuition, and critical intelligence, we prepare ourselves not only to face reality, but to CHANGE it.

When we waste time and energy believing in a higher power that will somehow solve all our problems for us, we fail to take that power into our own hands. Those brains so capable of spinning fantasies and fairy tales are capable of immense creativity and innovation, and it is because of that amazing capacity for critical thought, for problem solving, and for imagination that we as a species have been able to go from localized hunting and gathering communities struggling for each meal to living and breathing societies connected around the globe and improving the QUALITY of life for countless individuals.

When we see and accept the problems we face instead of hiding from them, we can begin creating solutions. While innocence may not last forever, ingenuity is a gift for the future. While the pure gaze from the untainted eyes of a newborn babe may be fleeting, his potential is ever lasting and even exponentially increasing into the infinite expanses of possibility. In a very short time, our species has evolved the ability to conquer lands, oceans, and stars. Our creativity knows no bounds, and we can be always believing in a brighter and more glorious tomorrow.