In this week’s spotlight I wish to ask the question: What if everything you believed was wrong? Pause for a moment, and ask yourself, “What if the manner in which you piloted your life was constructed from error, false beliefs, groundless foundations, incorrect assumptions, and so forth?” What would that mean to you, to how you live, to what you prioritize, with whom you associate, etc.?
There are many things that we think and believe that time tends to lay bare as undeserving of our investment in their veracity. Take for example the beliefs of many in our older still living generation and of those generations of the past. Some of these old beliefs that were so heavily invested in as to still invade our personal and political landscape today include slavery, women’s rights, sexual attitudes, and more.
Think about it this way, men who are today in their 70s and older, remember well the fifties, sixties, and seventies. The classic books then included works banned today such as Tom Sawyer’s Huckleberry Finn. Some books considered classics or semi-classics today, such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover and James Joyce’s Ulysses, were banned back then. Values were different as were priorities. In the fifties most women stayed home to raise their children, while men prided themselves in being the family’s sole provider. Many men felt shame if their wives had to work in order to make ends meet.
My lovely bride likes to think about context when it comes to how older people deal with today’s PC attitudes. She is quick to point out the plight of Paula Dean, by way of an example. Dean was asked under oath if she had ever used the N word. She admitted that she had—way back when. The ‘when’ did not matter—the fact was she had used this vile term and she admitted it. As a result her show was cancelled and she was financially devastated.
Paula Dean grew up at a time when everyone used the word. Regardless of whether it was right or wrong to do so by today’s standards, back then it was normal and ordinary—and we all need to be considered normal. As such, how fair is it to blame her for what was normal in her society as she grew up—a word that was in common use and which she said she had used once?
We sometimes think of old beliefs, such as burning witches in Salem, as the dark ages of ignorance, but it wasn’t long ago that the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) described gay behavior as a mental disorder. The fact is, “In the 1950s and 1960s, some therapists employed aversion therapy of the kind featured in A Clockwork Orange to “cure” male homosexuality.”1 It wasn’t until 1987 that homosexuality completely fell out of the DSM.2
The world is changing and doing so rapidly. In the near future, we’re very likely to have forms of artificial intelligence walking around looking very similar to human beings. The Japanese are already selling human looking dolls and at least one entrepreneur is buying them for use in a brothel.
We have cloning technology but resist human clones for reasons that can only be based on religious beliefs. We are able today to modify the DNA of our unborn children—we can even design the perfect child in theory. Tomorrow we could have designer babies that are so much smarter, stronger, faster, more athletic, and capable of much more than today’s average person as to represent a new level of human evolution. What will prevent this, especially for those with the very deep pockets?
So I ask myself everyday, what if that which I held sacred and true—everything I believed—crumbled like the sea castle on a sandy beach because it was based on a faulty foundation? What if?
For me, and just for me, asking this question while seriously remaining open to modifying my beliefs based on solid groundwork is a fundamental part of self-actualization. One thing is for sure; some of what we all believe today will be of the dark ages in the future.
My thoughts anyway, what are yours?
As always, thanks for the read and I appreciate your feedback.
- Burton, N. 2015. “When Homosexuality Stopped Being a Mental Disorder.” Psychology Today. Sept. 18, 2015.