When I first sat down to write this, I thought it would be easy – I know what I believe, it shouldn’t be difficult to write it down. Yet the more I thought about it, the harder it became. Then, while reading over old essays for inspiration, I realized that I have never actually had to write my beliefs. Only now, after having tried, do I realize how malleable my beliefs really are – and I don’t know what to make of that.
Upon further consideration, I think that this is the result of my schooling. I recently had a class in which the professor congratulated us for “being good honor students” because we told him what he wanted to hear. At the time, it seemed as though he was thrilled that we finally realized what he had been discussing. However, as I look back, I think he was actually mocking the fact that we had no idea what he was talking about and merely gave the expected, formulaic answers. He, of course, wanted us to come up with our own ideas and interpretations of the material, but we were too concerned with trying to find the correct interpretation to even consider telling ours.
For years, we practiced to “choose the best answer,” so it’s hardly surprising that we continue to try to find the best answer. I think that the ability to choose the best answer is a good skill to have. But, despite the fact that I am often troubled by not knowing the right answer, it simply isn’t always possible or even useful to have a right answer because some problems don’t have an answer. Some problems can’t be solved with logic or any other means, the only solace is to construct a belief based on instincts, faith, and morals.
For much of my education, this fact was largely ignored so as to better instill the proper way of finding the best answer. Thus the teaching of ideas lies largely outside of the school where the primary concern is fact. These ideas, then, are largely learned at home, with friends, and in religion.
Since I have lived in the same house and had essentially the same friends and religious experiences for most of my life, my beliefs are grounded almost solely in my experiences with them. Consequently, as I gradually move away from them and experience new things, I am beginning to accept that I probably will never know what is right. I believe that I won’t believe quite the same thing tomorrow and I hope that I won’t, for I will have learned something new.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.