This I Believe

Iva - Flagstaff, Arizona
Entered on December 4, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

The Perspective Question

“He preferred the hard truth to his dearest illusions.”

Fact and thought are often at odds. Other than showing his admiration for Johannes Kepler, Carl Sagan also unwittingly created this personal maxim of mine when he was quoted. Unfortunately for the optimist in me, I feel that belief, in itself, betrays that statement.

I have always been a little perplexed by the concept of “belief.” It seems that it implies acceptance that one could be wrong – not knowing something as a certainty, but still believing in it – yet at the same time, one usually treats a belief with the highest regard, as if it were a concrete fact. For this reason, I find it difficult to say that I concretely “believe” in anything. I am devoted to whatever is as close to pure fact as possible. I have my theories, but can only go so far as to say “I believe this is a possibility.”

Belief is, by definition, not certainty, yet it is often treated as fact. It is such a typical human concept – fabricating something and calling it reality. The clash between the optimist and the pessimist in me here is obvious – there is something so refreshing about the ability to believe, and yet something so oppressive about the thought of fooling oneself or convincing oneself of something. Oh, the power of the human mind. Everyone’s idea of what the world around them is, is tinted by their own thoughts, and in the end, the external world is simply a reflection of someone’s world within their mind, within their beliefs.

As far as I know, I am only human, so I am inherently not free of seeing the world without the bias of it being from my perspective. As much as I sometimes try to escape them, I, too, have beliefs; admittedly, this bias of perspective is simultaneously a blessing and a burden of individuality.

My beliefs come from my theories. My mind does not rest for a second – I am the sort of person that is constantly seeking connections and attempting to form a unifying theory of some sort. Eventually, my mind will formulate a conclusion which, upon analysis, I deem to be more or less fundamental; for a period of time ranging from a few days to a few weeks (and longer in some cases), I try to apply this theory to just about every facet of my life and all that I come across, and then tweak it accordingly.

Embedded in these theories is the question of perspective. If there is one thing I truly believe, despite my reluctance, it is in perpetually exposing oneself to diverse and copious perspectives. Everyone has infinite worlds in their minds. The world as someone knows it – everything they hold to be true – may not even exist to someone else.

Each person is only a fraction of the universe, and as a reflection of themselves, can only see a fraction of the universe. Opening the mind and forcing oneself to see possibilities they were once blind to, taking time to seriously and sincerely reflect on and understand what the world looks like to others, allows for seeing more and more fractions of the whole.

I struggle to shun the concept of belief in favor of my own little empirical world, tainted by no man-made convictions, based only upon the tenets of evidence and reason – not succumbing to my own dearest illusions. Despite the temptation to do so, in the end, I’ve discovered a balance where belief and untainted reality aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. I believe in the need to expose myself to as many perspectives and beliefs as humanly possible, to see and understand everyone else’s realities, and hopefully, upon grasping more and more fractions of the whole, come closer to seeing the world as it fundamentally is.