Today I would like to return to your awareness an aspect of the Human condition that adheres to the abstract nature of belief. Beliefs come in many shapes and sizes and yet all share something in common— they’re elusive and intangible.
Although we cannot “touch” a belief, it certainly has a way of touching us. Our belief modifies the way we think, how we act and feel. I take my tinfoil hat off to those who invented this system of social order so many moons ago. What a concept indeed. Imagine sitting around a stone-age conference table discussing this idea. I surely would have laughed it off. “You mean you can get people to accept something as truth even if it’s not real? C’mon man. I tell you what’s real— something called fire! Now that’s something you can believe in!”
Oh my, how I would have missed the boat. Not only did the concept grow legs, it sprouted wings. Turns out everyone wants to believe in something. For one thing it’s kind of fun. What would Christmas be like without Santa Clause? For another it makes us feel special somehow. But how does one find truth in a belief? The answer is really quite simple. We pretend.
In the following paragraphs I’ll take a somewhat playful (if not cynical) look at some of the hermetically-sealed belief systems that dominate in our lives. There’s a circuitous path one must navigate that divides our place of knowing from a world of make-believe. This trail can get a little precarious and downright slippery at times. So let’s saddle up our loyal mustangs and see where they take us. These majestic creatures are sure-footed, certain and most graceful in their stride. More than that, I sense they may know something we have forgotten.
Born to Run
This I can tell you about the mustang— they were born to run and we were born to ride. Where the trail ends, a new one begins and the sights and sounds are something to behold. The rider learns the way of the horse and the horse the way of the rider. It’s a relationship of balance and harmony. There’s a transfer of energy from one entity to another as our thoughts begin to roam free with wild abandon and the mustang gently restrains in courtesy of the saddle. On this journey, it’s not where you go— but where it takes you.
We are freedom-loving beings. You, me and the people we never meet or see because they live an ocean away. At the deepest level we are all free spirits. To this end we are not unlike the mustang. But I sense there’s a trifle few who would suggest we’re not deserving of this freedom. I believe they gain very much from the belief structures we submit to. And so we are encouraged to believe in those ideas and concepts that place cuffs on our hands and feet. We unlock our mind and hand another the key. Not because we’re foolish, but because we are trusting.
One may believe it is warm outside or that the words of another are true. But belief takes a giant leap forward when invested in an outside ideology or institution. These beliefs must be taught and learned. Can you see how someone might be stirred remotely by the belief system they follow? It’s here where we find the chasm between the spiritual and the believers. The spiritual mind seeks truth and spends many, many lonely nights pondering and wondering. It’s not enough for a lesson to be taught and handed to them— it must be felt at the very core of their being.
External influences are everywhere. We’ve all been conditioned into “believing” that we’re just a tiny speck in the macrocosm. Okay, to them I say— try removing that “speck” and see what happens. You’ll find it leaves a hole in this macrocosm, a tear in the ethereal fabric of all that is and will ever be. The tear would surely be the center of attention for all to notice. There is nothing insignificant about that.
And we must “believe” freedom is not free, they say. That’s not what the mustang tells me. And we must “believe” in a fabricated religion or face consternation or eternal damnation. We must “believe” in our teachers and the concepts of higher education. Most of all, the belief-makers want us to believe in all things outside ourselves. That’s the true societal doctrine. We must believe that without our loyal adherence to those synthetic constructs that mold us, we are very small and insignificant. Indeed, join the Army and be part of something bigger than yourself— or so they will tell you. But I will tell you again and again— there is nothing “bigger” than the beautiful, singular you.
The Concept of Religion
The late rock legend John Lennon perhaps said it best. In his song aptly titled, “God” he states “God is a concept by which we measure our pain.” Exactly what was meant by this verse is of course a matter of interpretation. But referring to God as a “concept” is what I find particularly intriguing. Lennon goes on to mention many ideologies and icons he doesn’t “believe” in. Even The Beatles made the list. Near the end of the track he writes, “I just believe in me… and that reality.” These are profoundly insightful words from someone who clearly understood the illusions that blind and bind us. When we believe in something outside ourselves we subordinate to the authority of that belief. Somebody is in control of that belief system and it’s not you.
“So you see I have come to doubt all that I once held as true.” These are the powerful words of Paul Simon from “Kathy’s Song.” Simon goes on to say “I stand alone without beliefs— the only truth I know is you.” The songwriters of yesterday came to our poetic and philosophical rescue. Music was perhaps the last conduit for elevating the masses into a higher consciousness. We’ve since moved on to a different sound and a different message. It would seem the philosophy belongs to a bygone era of the children of World War II and the veterans of Vietnam. The music I hear today is often brooding and complex or unmercifully adolescent. It too provides a snapshot of where we are today, but offers little antidote or resolution. The new sound seems to concede to the idea that we’re already screwed. They might be right.
In the most fundamental sense, as long as we believe in an external authority then we knowingly or unknowingly yield to those who govern it. This gives power to an entity outside of you. As in the case of a religious structure, we find not only individual power but the collective power of millions. Why does this concern me? Do we trust the wisdom of those who command this power and influence? We know there is an ongoing concern about religious improprieties. Collusion with nefarious governments, horrendous inquisitions, child rape and murder and a whole host of other unspeakable atrocities should offer one some pause and reservation. Personally, I will have nothing to do with institutions that serve as agents for Divine intervention. If there is a devil— in such a house you would find him. My thoughts belong to me. I’ve not been assigned my way of thinking.
Education and Government
Institutionalized education teaches us how to be compliant. Do not think for a moment that there is any real purpose beyond this. I once had a grade school teacher candidly admit, “You’re all empty minds needing to be filled.” Yes there is rudimentary instruction that loosely qualifies as teaching. But the real goal is to indoctrinate and enforce submission and turn the populace into working bees. There are many gifted children who ultimately fall out of this system because they have issues with compliance. I have nothing but disdain for modern education. Those who ultimately earn an advanced degree will be well-seasoned and attuned to the conformity and compliance of this institution. These are the same people who are ultimately chosen to effect major policy changes in society.
To what extent should we believe? Devices such as propaganda have long been used by government to influence the masses. People “believe” in what they’re told because they have submitted to this external authority. This power is so persuasive it can encourage people to enlist in the armed services. They are told they’re the defenders of “freedom” and yet they must give up much of their own freedom in order to serve in this capacity.
Dynamics of Belief
What I believe may not be what you believe and I am okay with that. In fact, I’m grateful for it. We are entitled to believe in what we want, but we should understand that beliefs are not the same as truth. Beliefs are malleable and can change over time. Truth is universal and will withstand the ages. The problem seems to be that many hold belief in the same light as truth. How did this happen?
Once surrendered to an external belief system, we’re honor-bound to serve it. In the simplest sense, that means if you call yourself a Mormon, then you must also say goodbye to coffee. That would surely spell my demise as I drink the stuff as if my life depended on it. So be it. My belief permits it. I abstain from meat— the Mormon does not. I would advise this ideology to not lecture me on matters of morality. If perhaps they are open to true enlightenment, I would suggest they close their book and open their mind. If they do, they will see how their structure is not unlike the others. Like all faiths, they preach peace and love as they march their children to war. There is such hypocrisy and deceit behind the velvet pulpits of shame.
Spirituality is also a belief system albeit a personal one. This means you’re the authority of it. You are not relinquishing your power to another. It does not suggest your belief is the right one or the only one. It does however suggest that you have found a belief that serves your needs—and that’s powerful indeed. You live with an inner-knowing and an inner-peace. You can separate yourself from the spectacle that surrounds you. From this vantage, all the rumblings of the world play out on stage. You may feel like one of the actors at times, but the spiritually aware are more attuned as observers. They may feel captivated and moved by the story, but they know it’s just a show.
My reality did not come pre-wrapped in a package with a pretty bow on it. I was not captured by a flowering sermon or summoned by a Bible-pumping preacher pimping fear. I fought long and hard for the truth and the philosophy I live by. I had to first unlearn what had been sewn into my young psyche at such an impressionable age. Not an easy task by any measure. I had to forgive and forget the Catholic teachings and extricate myself from the labyrinth that held me. I had feelings of guilt which were not unlike the pain of divorce. I learned to let go.
I believe in you and I believe in me. Much beyond that is a real reach in my world. What we call belief is merely a presumption, opinion or an understanding. On the other hand, the word “truth” suggests a state of knowing, a resonance in harmony at the very core of who and what we are. And yet we use these words freely and interchangeably.
Ah, alas, I see we’re back. There were a couple of slippery parts there— but your mustang held on and stayed true to course. When the rider bonds with their horse, there’s a synergy that benefits both. You really had nothing to fear as the path withered and narrowed into a new trail of your own making.
The moon is high now, the sage silvery and sweet, but the shadow from a Saguaro conjures the image of a wounded man. And I think to myself, if only he could see the light on the other side. If only.