The Squishiness in Belief

The Squishiness in Belief

I’ve been pondering today the fluidity of man’s thinking and viewpoints. The lack of solidity in my thoughts on belief structures is unsettling – and that coming from a 45 year old fairly solidified in his thinkings. The squishiness in Belief is unsettling; the ease by which cognitive dissonance spreads like a virus (fair? is it healthy?) through the mindset undermines any hope for a common global morality. You say I contradict myself? Very well then, I am large and contain multitudes! has always given me strength to embrace thoughts and beliefs, but in my age I’m beginning to feel dismay at the lack of substance underneath belief which is frequently conveyed as bedrock for one’s identity. It begs the question, if it is a bedrock for identity, then what really is? Simply DNA?

The susceptibility of one’s perspective to be so influenced by their surrounding is also filling my thoughts, given and in support of the weakness of belief.  The exposure to all the viewpoints on this trip has only reminded me of this. I am thinking of the Chinese method of turning prisoners – by having them slowly make the tiniest of concessions and then have their peers be shown making similar concessions, gradually bringing them to the entire opposite belief structure.

Seeing this occur in the politics of America this election year is another such example. This is not a political comment, but if you may allow me to use politics as a means to demonstrate a point. The balkanization of belief structures, where people seek out people and media that is aligned to their own thought (whether consciously or not), and then for those influences to take the same baby steps to pull you along to stronger belief structures. Add in a heavy dosage of targeted click monitoring that rewards clicks, and you have a drug that direct targets the “balkanization gene” through self affirming spiraling. Again, like water carving out water pools in the rocks along stream sides – the recursive balkanization of belief structures in today’s societal discourse undermines my hopes for a common core global belief structure for good . Back to politics, as this recursive self affirming spiral continues, you soon end up with people supporting candidates that have platforms that are categorically the opposite of what they have previously expressed as their core belief system.

Alright – one other aside musing – Verb vs noun. While writing the above, it got me thinking meta cognition wise of Verbs versus Nouns. Verbs get all the limelight – the fluidity and motion. I always anchored the sentence around the verb in college, throwing away the noun-centric sentences of pre-adolescence. But I find now that I’m rekindling my love for hard nouns in my older years. The weight and strength of named concepts – they feel like Roman coliseums – sure they will crumble but yet the stand the length of time. The verbs however, are just a means to express how they got there, and fade in a flash of fluid poetry.

Jan mentioned in passing that my writing was a bit too flowery for his tastes; I suspect he was being kind – but his comments also touched on this switch from verb to noun in my own old age. I rarely use the red pen to dispel extraneous and repetitive words (case in point) justifying the extra verbiage as really painting in the cracks to make the room feel full and complete, at the expense of the reader’s patience. And sadly, as I have moved from verb back to noun, my boorishness has only lengthened without the use of motion to pull the reader along with me (again, case in point recursively here – thus I will now end!).

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