Archive for Fear

Surrender to uncertainty!

The world is uncertain: We cannot control our lives. We cannot control the world, we cannot control other people, we only have limited control over ourselves. Many of us feel uncomfortable about this. We want security in our lives. We like to plan our futures and be reassured that everything will be OK. Uncertainty is not reassuring – it is scary. Yet until we accept it, we will never be comfortable.

The truth is, anything could happen at any time. We go ahead making our plans – thinking about what we will do, whether we’ll have kids, where we will live, and so forth. Yet these plans could be shattered in an instant, dramatically so. There may be an unexpected tragedy – our loved one might die, we may fall ill, or a war could break out. There may also be an unexpected opportunity – we change careers, or meet the man of our dreams. If we cling too strongly to our plans, this uncertainty will scare us. Even good opportunities will be viewed as threats, things that shake up our security. Thus, to shrink from uncertainty is to live in fear. Instead, we must surrender to it, accept it, even embrace it.

There is nothing wrong making plans in life, but we must take these plans with a pinch of salt. Living life is like being swept downstream by a raging river. Our struggling is of limited use. We may have some control – we can steer away from rocks, keep our head above water – but for the most part, we are at the mercy of the river. Many people think this analogy is depressing, viewing life is the avoiding of rocks. This misses the point: Riding down a river is fun! It is fun provided that we relax, accept the uncertainty, and enjoy whatever surprises come.

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Can we be open-minded in organized religion?

If we honestly seek the truth, we must be open to any conclusion. This is true of any field, and religion is no exception. Some might argue that if everyone agrees on something then it is probably true. This would mean that blind faith is acceptable. Whether this argument is valid or not, it does not apply to religion for the simple reason that people are nowhere close to a consensus. Therefore, questioning is essential.

Belonging to an organized religion can make questioning difficult because we are afraid to deviate from the mindset of those around us. Although we may be able to question finer points of doctrine, the environment likely makes it difficult to challenge any fundamental assumptions that would effectively preclude us from remaining in the religion. For example, it is hard to question the very existence of God, or the existence of a soul, from within the context of organized religion.

Nevertheless, it is important to question such things. People generally shrink from such uncertainty. They are afraid to challenge their secure world view, a view which is supported by the other members of their religion. The stakes are especially high because religion offers hope, it offers a way out, and therefore to challenge it is to admit the frightening possibility that our path to redemption is not valid. Such a fear-based mindset will get us nowhere. Religion is a search for truth, not a search for security or for pleasure. In any case, believing something simply because we were told it will not bring security: We will always be afraid that our belief is wrong. We must only believe something if we have questioned it and found it to be true.

Uncertainty is present whether we like it or not. Our only choice is whether to ignore it. We may think that blind faith brings security, but the opposite is true. The most secure path is through critical thinking – challenging our assumptions and questioning everything. If we do this, we either confirm our beliefs, or we come up with new and better beliefs. In either case, we will have confidence in them and will know that we have thought about them, rather than simply believing what we were told or what we believed yesterday. In the context of an organized religion, this open-mindedness may not be possible. If we are expected to maintain a certain set of core beliefs, then we dampen the spirit of inquiry. Therefore, although we may find the discussion and company of an organized religion useful, we should never be strongly identified with it. Open-mindedness is the real path to the truth.

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