Humans want answers. We have some very big questions to ask and some very rough terrain to navigate: What gives meaning to life? What will happen to me when I take my last breath? Why do terrible things sometimes happen to innocent people? Does this universe that surrounds us and is within us respond to our thoughts and feelings?
People answer these questions in their own ways, and often don’t answer them honestly. Why is it that people don’t answer these very important questions honestly? The reason is that most of us are not born into environments that allow us to answer these questions honestly and most people look for a answers that fit their society and surroundings rather than answer these questions with the self-inquiry that they demand. Usually, we are told what the answers to the big questions in life are by people who themselves still hold beliefs that are not mature and we are not given much room for variation on these beliefs.
The atheists say, “There is no God”. The religious zealot says, “There is a God. Let me tell you about him.” Both these thinkers believe they “know” the “Truth”. The position of “knowing” is often a weak position. When a person acknowledges that they don’t “know” it is often a sign of spiritual wisdom and strength.
A friend of mine is very active in, what I believe is, a very uplifting spiritual organization. I like the beliefs of this organization. However, even in this organization with a very healthy philosophy there is a culture that doesn’t allow for the “I don’t really know if I believe this doctrine” thinking. This is a problem because whenever there is a culture that doesn’t allow questioning, it limits direct experience. Being locked into any belief system will ultimately limit us because the infinite cannot be captured in a doctrine.
A belief system is like a container and no container can hold this beautiful and mysterious reality that we all share. However, these containers, or belief systems, are excellent tools for teaching and helping us make our dreams come true. What has happened over thousands of years is that our beliefs have taken on lives of their own and we now are serving our beliefs instead of our beliefs leading us to happiness.
This reminds me of a discussion I once had with a missionary. He said, “Belief systems are like guardrails…they keep us from driving over a cliff.” To which I said, “Guardrails usually protect the reckless. Good drivers don’t often need them.” But the missionary had a good point: There are many people who, without a religion or a very structured group, would be alcoholics, or bullies, or even worse. In many ways a limited belief can help a person to live a wonderful life. That said, it is important to remember that we are all limited by the confines of our beliefs.
Ask yourself “Is your view of the world helping you to lead an integrated and healthy life?” Our beliefs should not be like an overbearing boss that is running our lives. The control exercised by belief comes from our family, friends, society, and most strongly, our own minds. We are always being told what to believe and what not to believe. Courage is the ability to believe the quiet whisper in your heart above what the world is telling you. That little voice inside usually doesn’t lie and is our true friend.
This brings us to the subject of “God”. The atheist says, “I know there is no God no matter how you define it, him, or her.” The religious zealot is equally locked into a belief system saying “I know God AND let me tell you who and how he is.” The religious zealot is often trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and looking for someone to share his or her wrong understanding. This is a way of helping to sooth the zealots underlying knowing that their belief is a house of cards. This is why all large religions create tightly controlled cloistered communities. It’s truly wonderful to be in a community of people who share the same belief. The bigger the church, temple, or political party, the more people and money it has, the more main stream the belief is, the safer the adherents feel. The converse is true as well: If a group feels the house of cards is being threatened, watch out!
Now let me be clear, I’m not saying that there is no Truth and that we can’t know anything. There are some things we do know, and some people know more than others. That’s obvious. If one person believes that Adam & Eve and Noah’s ark really happened and another believes that this is a nice mythology, is this something that is really worth spending our most valuable commodity, time, debating?
What I think is more important is what is true NOW, TODAY…THIS MOMENT. What matters is how I treat my wife and children and how they treat me. What matters is the love in our life today. Ask yourself, “What do you believe is important NOW, TODAY?” Does your environment, your family, friends, and partner right now allow you to choose what you believe or are you being told what to believe? Do you have a choice right now? Is what you believe based on your experience of what is true or are you trying to fit your experience into the belief system you have inherited? Do you have the freedom to question your beliefs today or would that be too disruptive to your life? Do you have the courage to question your beliefs in the privacy of your heart, or are the ghosts of society, religious leaders, and your family haunting you?
The “Truth” is something that never changes and is new in every moment. That is the great mystery. “Truth” is both universal and very personal and cannot be wrapped in a package or written in any book. Life is about discovering Truth in the privacy of your own heart with the understanding that this discovery is intimate and personal. No one in this world can tell you how the wind feels on your face.
It would be nice to live in a world that is not littered with archaic ideas and zealots who want to control the lives of others. We live in a universe that is governed by laws both physical and spiritual, and our actions do have consequences: Knowing this from direct experience will shape an individual into one who lives in harmony with others. By offering our own honest exploration, an exploration that takes place in the privacy of our own heart, we give to others an authenticity that allows for a genuine connection…real love. Meaningful answers to the tough questions in life demands courage and honesty on a core level. The harvest of this inquiry is unparalleled and cannot be spoken to another.