Sunday, April 5, 2009

Thinking, a head

I am not by nature a skeptic, but I am trying to become one. Growing up, I was taught not to question -- "because I said so" was a standard response at both home and school -- and to question God's Word, aka the Bible, was heresy so dire as to risk Eternal Hellfire and Brimstone. So nurture shares blame with nature. A lot to overcome, but not impossible.

Why the late-life effort to birth a skeptic's mindset? Because I have come to realize that we need to be questioning everything. We need to question what we are told by politicians and news media and religious leaders and the check-out clerk at Walmart. We are in critical times and critical times require the truth. If I am to know the truth, I will have to dig for it. It takes vigilance -- I tend to believe those with whom I agree without doing the proper excavation. Vigilance and practice. I'm not there yet, but I'm working at it.

However, skepticism is more than just questioning fact and opinion, it is identifying and questioning underlying assumptions. And this, my friend, is where true adventure takes place. When we take our most cherished beliefs, beliefs so fundamental that they have become virtually invisible, and hold them up to scrutiny, magical things can happen. This is the realm of the aha-moment. This is the realm of quantum leaps. And if one is so lucky as to possess a mind both skeptical and inventive . . . No genie in a bottle could hold more potential!

But are these qualities that can be learned? Is there any chance that both nature and nurture can be fooled into a change of course? My newfound skeptic says, "Believe no one. Check it out for yourself." And so I will.

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