Aspiring Wise Fool

What do I know for sure?



What do I know for sure? I exist, I’m here, and I get to choose what I believe about both of those.

Just because you believe something doesn’t make it true—even if hundreds, thousands, or millions believe it.  Some will argue that they have evidence for their beliefs—but a closer examination of this evidence almost always reveals an additional array of beliefs about what actually counts as evidence and how it should be interpreted.  Evidence is not foolproof; rather, it is based upon probabilities of interpretation supported by previous occurrences.   Evidence, it would seem, is at the mercy of one’s ability to interpret data.

The cause of suffering is closely tied to perceptions held by the ego-personality.  The EP is filled with countless beliefs that it accepts as true. For instance, if someone discounts something I say, my EP presents a belief about what just happened—which has just as much probability of being false as true.  When the ego accepts something as true, a series of unintended consequences, usually ending in suffering, is sure to follow.  Beliefs lead to even more beliefs, explanations, expectations and behaviors—all which have the potential of increasing suffering and misunderstanding. A way to stop this suffering is to stop believing our thoughts. Our thoughts about what is happening to us causes at least as much suffering as events themselves. And the way to stop believing our thoughts is to begin a process of personal inquiry where we challenge the truth of everything we believe in.

For many years I harbored anger and resentment at a mother I never knew for giving me up for adoption.  In my mind I believed that she must have been a horrible and uncaring person.  I believed that she did not want me.  Years later I would learn how difficult life can be for many people—and that often times they experience troubles that aren’t their fault. This helped me to understand that there might be any number of alternate explanations regarding my adoption.  Maybe my mother allowed me to be adopted precisely because of her love for me. Perhaps she wanted me to have opportunities that she could not supply.

There are countless other beliefs that I have held regarding religion, faith, politics, education, race, national origin, and sexual orientation.  I have held countless views about what others thought of me, my views about most things, personal competence—you name it!  I have held countless views of other people, places and things.  I have made hundreds of thousands of judgments about what is good, bad, right and wrong.  I have expressed my preferences about food, drink, dress, vacations, possessions, jobs, money, children and family.  Each time I express my unexamined beliefs as though they are God’s truth—I add to the suffering of others and myself.

This personal work of inquiry, where you question everything you believe to be true about yourself and others, helps strip away many layers of confusion and resentment.  It matures the mind to stop claiming knowledge it does not have.  It sharpens the mind to inquire and listen to multiple voices about people, places and things.  It is great discipline for the mind to stop beating the drum of old narratives about what is good, bad, right and wrong and how the world should work.

What do I know for sure? Only that I exist—and that what I am calling “I” is not a separate being but the one grand being that contains all there is.  Once we’re past this, I think most things are up for grabs. I still have my preferences—but I know that is just what is working for me—until it doesn’t.  There are things I continue to choose and believe, not because I have rock solid evidence, but because that it seems a probable truth to me.  There are things I choose to believe because it makes me happier than believing something else.

What do I know for sure? I exist, I’m here, and I get to choose what I believe about both of those.