Abstract ideas and beliefs are easy until you come face-to-face with demand for action.
As I sit here, my thirteen year old is fast asleep. It is 10:22 am on a Sunday morning. Invoking the adage, “Let sleeping dogs lie,” I have resolved to let him sleep as long as he sleeps. I want to wake him, show him the list of chores, tell him to eat a yogurt and get to work. I will not do that. I know that teenagers need as much or more sleep than infants. I know that in preparation for later teen years, his clock is turning…he will stay up later and sleep in more. I believe he will be happier and healthier and more cheerful to do his chores if I let him sleep.
Our continually stratified world beliefs – especially religious and political – are driving us away from negotiating tables and from our neighbors. The continual cacophony of extreme ideas deafens us and invites us to hide behind screens and usernames to watch the flying rhetoric. But, ultimately, real life is what is happening around us and within us.
I’ve been thinking about what I believe and why and where it all came from and if it needs to be re-evaluated. Some people embrace certain beliefs simply because it is the opposite of another person’s. (Need an example? Look at Congress vs. the President.) Other people hold on to beliefs they have been surrounded with, never taking a moment to consider the reasons for their own grip on such beliefs. (Example: anyone who says, “Thet’s whut ma’ daddy tole me” for reasoning.)
I created categories as I considered my own belief-action paradigm:
Apple Not Far From the Tree:
This is the category of beliefs that we grew up with and after coming of age and continue to embrace, hopefully after some reflection. The things where we think, “Yep, Dad was right about that.” Or, “Grandma sure knew what she was talking about.”
An example for me is: let people love who they want and marry whom they want and live how they want. What business of mine is it? I support everyone living and loving and being happy. I attribute this belief and attitude to my mother. I remember her standing in her bedroom doing something like putting away laundry and saying, “Really, I don’t care what others do in their bedrooms as long they don’t want to come into mine.” Simplistic? Perhaps. Truth? Yes.
Embarrassing as it is to admit, I didn’t consciously realize that people grew up in circumstances different than mine until I was a senior in high school. I never gave it any thought. Single parent families? Racial discrimination? Abuse? All theoretical. I knew these things existed, but not in any real way until I traveled overseas. Somehow 1985, the Soviet Union and going to college combined to wake me up to the obvious knowledge that people’s perspectives were shaped by their lives, and we all have different lives; therefore, we all have differing opinions.
Everyone is entitled to his opinions, and he has every right to express them. Preferably constructively, but express them even so. The internet has provided a bully pulpit, a soapbox, a meme for every view under the sun. Do I agree with them all? Nope. Do I think everyone has a right to an opinion or belief that I do not share? Of course.
We have held and acted on Easy Bake beliefs over the years and circumstances. We have refined and polished these; over time they have become inherent to who we are.
“Everyone has his own path.” I would say this to distressed parents whose seniors wanted to take a year off, not going directly to college as our college-prep school expected. I would say this to students whose parents wanted them to study biology on the pre-med track to what seemed like a million more years of school to student when all he wanted to do was go to art school and be happy.
It is easy for me to say, “Not everyone needs to or should go to college.” It was not easy for me to act on this when my eldest son left college. I mean, maybe not everyone should go to college, but he sure as hell should. That was harder. I had to stop and think, “Do I really mean what I have been saying for the last ten years? Does everyone really have their own path?” When one’s beliefs show up late at night, one has to choose: welcome them or leave them out in the cold.
Shot to the Heart:
Related to Boomerangs, but even more intensely personal Shots to the Heart are the on-going conversations we have with ourselves.
I believe I can be completely happy living alone even when the thirteen year old goes on to college and his own life. (That is, if he ever wakes up.) Acting on this? Much, much harder. Living this out cheerfully? Don’t push it.
Beliefs define who we are.
Acting on them defines our world.
What are your beliefs?