Does living a life of clinging to beliefs debase and bewilder?

Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.

Am I aware of everything that I believe?  I am not referring to religious or political creeds, but to beliefs that are so profound that we do not even consider them as such or we do not even notice them.  For us they are like fundamental truths or dogmas that are never questioned.   I rely on things being and continuing to be as I am used to believing they are.  What I believe is not necessarily true, but the fact that I believe that it is, is sufficient for me.  And why is it sufficient for me?  Because it gives me security.  And that is because in my imagination I project those beliefs into the future and the sensation that nothing is going to change, reassures me today.

Imagine that you doubted the truth of everything that you consider “controlled” and certain.  Now wonder about your partner, your children’s feelings, the intentions of your bosses about continuing with your employment, about whether the Earth is round, about the benefit of the medication you are taking, about your religious or political beliefs, whether your parents really love you, about your decisions, your forthright opinions and many other “certainties”.  Imagine that all of these things cease to be certain and observe how it makes you feel.  What do you feel?  Do you feel the same as before? 

Whether I think the Earth is the centre of the universe or whether I think the sun is, does that change anything about the structure of the universe?  No.  What has changed?  Only what I believe about things.  And what I believe provides me with security, it offers me the illusion that things are as I believe and that they are not going to change.  Everything will be predictable.  When something opposes what we believe we become angry, we argue and we defend our beliefs because we feel at ease with them, comforted, reassured. 

We are defending our peace of mind, not something outside ourselves.  The impulse to seek security is something innate, a reflex that leads us to defend ourselves from a physical aggressor as well as from a threat to our psychological security.

Therefore we cling to our beliefs, because we adopt them as the foundations on which we build our lives.  An assault on our beliefs is an attack on our lives.  It may be that over the course of our lives we change certain beliefs, but we do it like a monkey: we do not let get of one vine until we can see the next one to grab.  The most difficult thing is to remain in the position of releasing one vine without the desire to grab quickly onto another. 

Our lack of awareness of all of these things has many consequences, among them that of creating divisions between people because they have different ideas/beliefs/opinions.  And from there it is not that big a stretch to arguments, entrenched positions and verbal and physical confrontations.  We kill each other for phony arguments: a coloured piece of fabric that we call a flag, a line on a piece of paper that we call a border, a territory and familiar customs that we call our homeland, our group or “we.”   They are nothing but illusions based on our fear, an atavistic fear of not surviving. 

Not being aware of these primitive impulses produced by our florid human psyche full of symbols, poetry and burning emotions, is the cause of unnecessary clashes and intolerance towards what is different, a confusion of ideas and of savage and primitive fights.

Have you observed that in yourself?  If you have not observed it, it is not because it does not exist.  Persevere, be alert.  We pay a high price for our ignorance about ourselves.