I came to a realization today. I am not a truth seeker.
Let me clarify that. I'm seeking truth, just not The Truth, because frankly, I do not believe there is just one. I believe that settling on a static definition of reality prevents you from seeing new information. What I think I'll call myself now is a context collector.
I've always been interested in looking for deeper meanings in that cloudy water beneath the surface tension we call normal reality. The pursuit is high on my list of my favorite activities. I love the roller coaster ride of discovery and occasional astonishment, but I also enjoy the feeling of being wrong and choosing to consider a new approach. What I find over and over again is that the camps I can't join in good conscience have one thing in common:
They're sure they found it, and therefore they can be kind of gross to be around and hard to talk to. So I split.
It feels great to think you figured it all out. I've had those moments of smug certainty and they do make you feel pretty bulletproof at first. From that island of illusory security can spring arbitrary authority, pride, and the potential for conflict with those who do not agree.
Here's the danger: People who are sure will do things that will give pause to people who maintain a healthy hesitation.
I've declared myself an optimist before, which may seem not to play well with the tone of my website and the Apocalypse Fatigue "brand." Optimism is misunderstood. It is not the opposite of pessimism, which tends to be more absolute. To me, it means that in the long view, things are tending to get better even as they seem downright awful in the short term.
To put it another way: we're screwed if we just ride it out and trust leaders to fix it at the last minute, but there's hope for the big picture if we reclaim the reigns of personal responsibility and shape life around us with our choices. When I remind myself to do this, the effects are immediate and positive. My advice is not to take my word for it. Start with tiny things and be scientific.
I look to a better horizon, but I'm not staring into the sun with rose colored glasses on. I naturally get pulled into hoping for some part of the world to be some way, but rather than close the book there I allow myself room for doubt, investigation, and reevaluation. This, in my view, is a sane path, if not always a comfortable one. Cynicism and skepticism have been made into bad words, but all one has to do to take The Curse off them is research their original meaning.
The original Cynics were advocates of living simply and in greater harmony with nature than with society. They were critical of greed and other social norms they felt were causing pain, but that was only part of their message. Some were quite vocal and people are people, so feelings were hurt. Diogenes was infamous for telling Alexander the Great of all people to get out of his light. Our ancestors hung on to the part of cynicism that gave them the butt-hurt, and so now the word is taken to mean a certain jaded mistrust of human motives.
In much the same way, skepticism is regarded as doubt when the root word actually means inquiry. As Dr. Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine puts it, skepticism is a process, not a position. Skeptics do not appear to have a philosophy in common like the original Cynics. They simply seek to pause and get what facts can be had before picking a side, and may never land on a belief or denial at all.
That brings me back to my original point. Thirst for and pursuit of truth is a healthy part of any free life, especially given the clear fact that the propaganda mills have never worked harder to blast us all with the Verbal Hologram of consensus reality. Choice informed by inquiry and evidence is a far better means of navigating and shaping life than signing on to a belief system and letting it drive. I admire the chase, and salute all who run after gnosis, but I'm always a little annoyed when people declare their utter certainty.
Keep digging, my friends! May you find the gold you're after, but also the silver you never expected to find.