Sunday, December 16, 2007

No-It-All

Oscar Wilde has a famous quote, "I am not young enough to know everything!" that fits perfectly with my current mindset. Current, not as in these days but more like "these years". I used to know all the answers, I used to know all the secrets to the universe and then....then the answers changed, opinions reversed, beliefs altered beyond recognition...but now, now I don't know what I believe and what I know, if anything.

Let's start with religion. I was raised a Hindu, so I believed in the Gods, omnipresent, omnipotent and above all benevolent. Then somewhere in my teens, I started developing doubts, doubts introduced into my brain by my studies that involved science. The mythological stories that seemed like the gospel truth before(literal metaphor, if there is such a thing), started to look like ridiculous fairy tales in view of my knowledge of science, limited though it was. This was followed by a period when I completely denied the existence of God as a fantasy created by Man. This, in turn, was followed by many other, shorter, more volatile periods of beliefs - a malvolent God, an indifferent God, no God just Nature, and many others. At the time of going to press it's all up in the air and I could not tell you which one I really believe even if you hung me over Grand Canyon by a thin thread and threatened to let go!

That is just one area, then there are others, many areas where my beliefs have been shaken by time, and it comes not from not knowing but from knowing too much (or at learning and reading too much) and based on that, being able to reason against myself. If you were to debate with me on this topic, I could provide arguments, at length, supporting or denying any of the abovementioned theories. Yet, that doesn't get me anywhere. And "faith" which seems to be the answer for majority of the populace just earns my contempt and pity, nothing more.

For another example, take patriotism. I used to be so much in favor of that, jan_ni janm_bhoomishch swargadapi gareeyasi (Sanskrit, meaning: mother and motherland are higher than the heaven itself), while I still concur with the part about mother, I am not sure about the part about Motherland, you can read my views on that in my post about patriotism. http://sunilgoswami.blogspot.com/2007/07/love-thy-country.html

I am a tester, a tester's creed is "Take all statements that seem true and question them!". I apply that to everything. There are many other topics where I have more questions than answers. Regular readers of my blog would know that, but I have more questions than I put on my blog even. There are a lot of quotations that mention the same kind of thing, that the more a man learns the more he learns about how little he knows. socrates even went so far as to say "All I know is I know nothing.". Still it can be quite frustrating at times to be so confused about everything that you don't know what you believe.

At times like this the quote from Lazarus Long (character by Robert Heinlein), "I have no beliefs. Beliefs get in the way of learning." is quite comforting. I do find that not having beliefs helps you keep an open mind and that's the only way to learn something new.

I would love to hear from others who have gone through or are going through this same kind of thing.

2 comments:

P~ said...

Sunil,
I have and continue to go through this same sort of thing. A year ago, you would have been more likely to hear me complaining about "liberals" and worrying about the middle east than trying to simplify my life, clean my own side of the street, and think locally. I have also had a very similar progression through my life with regard to religion. I beleve in God, and yes much of that is based on faith, but I also understand the arguments to the contrary. I have read on your blog that you are an advocate of positive thought, and that we have the ability to live a thought directed life. (to paraphrase) I would submit that perhaps, when you take upon yourself the mantle of "tester" or "questioner", that you establish for yourself a paradigm of your own making. That you attract opportunities to test, or question based on our unique ability as humans to focus on, and thereby attract, that which we desire. I believe this is one of the reasons that man has over the centuries evolved to be able to, in contrast to other animals, believe that which he cannot see. In other words. Faith allows us the leisure to accept completely that which has no tangibility and therefor offers us a loophole to the mobius strip that is the belive, question, disprove, believe cycle that invariably plagues any thinker. I hope you don't meet my profession of faith with contempt, but rather look at the possibilies, sometimes you just have to ask for answers, and accept the ones you are given.
Namaste friend.
P~

Sunil Goswami said...

Dear P,
Thanks for your long and sensible comment. Let me address the issue of faith first. It's good indication of my confused (only on the deep topics), mindset that right after I published this post I started thinking, "I don't have contempt for faith, faith in itself it not a bad thing. How can I have contempt for faith, I myself have faith - faith in my self, faith in the indefatigable power of the human mind, faith in the uncrushable human spirit...". I must have been thinking about organized religion when I wrote that.

You present some very insightful thoughts here and I am grateful that you took the time to contribute them. I don't want to analyze or "hair-split" them, I'll just take them as input and see if it helps me understand anything better.

The only good thing is I am not expecting it to be a short journey, or an easy journey, and thus, I am not in a hurry.

Namaste.

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