I was fortunate enough, tonight, to find myself in a great discussion about education for education's sake. Meaning, reading great books and studying classic thought and literature because it quenches your thirst for knowledge, not because it is part of your coursework for a degree or toward some other greater end.
For example, what great insights into your own life and existence might you find if, without the need to analyze and critique, you could read Plato and Aristotle as a means to understanding your own well-being and how your ethics might be shaped by your experience? Or maybe turn to Brentano and his ideas about intentionality in order to better understand how your experience of life is simply a function of your inner perceptions? Or how the classic stoicists, like Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius, can open your eyes to the fundamental nature of "value" and how, with the practice of philosophy as a way of life, you define your own world?
“What disturbs men’s minds is not events, but their judgment on events.” ~Epictetus
Oprah recently produced a short mini-series documenting how belief is expressed in cultures around the world. The television event demonstrated how acts of faith, feelings on love and death, as well as overcoming adversity or despair are all based in our individual systems of belief. From this arose a discussion on how someone’s church or culture inadvertently trains people to read and study events and scriptures in a certain way and, thus, many lifelong believers interpret things in a certain specific and similar way.
Yet, I believe we are taught by Christ, Muhammad, Buddha, and by other prophets to seek answers and to seek truth in all things. Since everyone is different and everyone's questions are different, then life and scriptures are not only open to interpretation but are actually designed to be interpreted for the use of the reader. That doesn't mean they can or should be used as a tool to enforce your beliefs on others. But it most certainly means that they can and should be used as an invitation - an olive branch - to encourage others to come to learn and know what God would have them know. Such a simple concept is, in my opinion, so often perverted by the narrow box of thought in which people are "taught" to read and search the scriptures. This is largely why seekers are so important to any religion. A seeker's interpretations of scriptures are based on a completely different set of experiences with them than lifelong religious members.
Based loosely on the teachings of Martin Heidegger, comes the idea that our thought patterns are a result of our unique experience and therefor cannot be changed. Because we have experiences that shape our reactions, thoughts, and desires, we actually don't even consciously choose to think in the ways that we do. In fact, one's thought patterns are so ingrained, that to even recognize that the patterns could be different takes a great act of conscious neuroplasticity and/or grace and mercy by God.
I find myself sufficiently blessed to acknowledge and seek to change my thought patterns regularly, especially when I find they are not serving me in the ways that I would wish. But I see so many others who are victims of a fixed mindset. Trapped by their own subconscious thoughts which do not allow them to perceive, view, or think about a situation any differently.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you tried to explain your perspective or challenge theirs only to find that you quite literally did not understand where they were coming from and/or they didn't understand you... like, at all? Maybe it's because our thoughts are in fact so different that one cannot even begin to think like another. That is again, unless you are given the eyes of God to see outside of your own thought patterns.
Something that I love about the idea of being a seeker is the easy way in which he/she will accept new thoughts. Though experiences may be very personal and about things that are unique to you, the greater understanding is that we are all humans. We are all having similar thoughts and doubts about our existence. In fact it might be the very reason we have evolved to be here.
What is the meaning of life?
Who or what is “god”?
Why am I here?
These are all good reasons to step out of your comfort zone and interact with the greater world around you. Instead of saying, "I'll believe it when I see it." Consider for a moment that when you do believe it, you will be able to see it.
"Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one's lifetime." ~Mark Twain
When you take responsibility for what you believe, the world around you changes.
What do you believe?