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Sat, Oct. 19

Barnes: Sharing a few thoughts about life

Dr. Ron Barnes

Dr. Ron Barnes

I can’t seem to help myself. My latest hang-up is that I have been thinking about thinking for the past few months.

And that caused me to think about our belief systems.

Which, as you surely know are inextricably related.

I blame an old friend, Sam Keen, for provoking these reflections.

He wrote: “How do people change the way they think? Something has to happen to break the person open. You have to become disillusioned. You have to lose faith in some kind of language. You have to lose faith in orthodoxy. You have to lose faith in something that you once believed in.”

When I was a young nipper I believed the equality of everyone was part of the American way of life. Then came a growing realization — triggered by a series of civil rights events — that shattered my illusion that we lived in a nation in which there was liberty and justice for all.

A personal belief system cracked, then was smashed into smithereens.

I recall believing that we could trust government officials to serve the best interests of citizens to place the public good before their personal self-interests. That belief system has been irrevocably fractured.

In both cases, I found it necessary to reconstitute my thinking and evaluate my language in order to be consistent with my experiences.

To accomplish this challenge, I had to learn to listen and really hear what people were saying, what the evidence truly showed, and accept the reality that people’s perceptions were as real to them as mine were to me.

What I had to learn was that my belief system wouldn’t change if I insisted upon possessing clear-cut answers. I needed to become comfortable with confusion of thought, discombobulated thinking patterns, and accept the reality that early life experiences no longer adequately explained new realities.

Again, in the words of Sam Keen: “You become disillusioned and realize that you were taken in. You were taken in by words. Maybe you we’re taken in by the church, or taken in by the words of government, or you were taken in by the words of a guru, or you were taken in by the words of a newspaper. You were taken in by a belief system.”

What I know now is that I had tough personal hurdles to overcome. I had to learn to listen and think without relying on the seeming safety of early biases.

That’s a tough hurdle for anyone to overcome. Narrow-mindedness enables a person to condemn without undergoing the difficult process of self-reflection and examining reasons for reaching a judgement. It’s a closed-mind approach to the world that cherishes answers and is suspicious of questions.

I have learned to appreciate the words of philosopher/psychologist William James: “Too many people think they are thinking when all they are doing is rearranging their prejudices.”

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