We all have concepts that we believe to be true. For instance, most of us have heard and believe as factual that ”the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” Likewise, that the sum of “1 + 1 = 2″ is a premise upon which virtually all of us would agree.
These concepts are at the core of our individual and collective belief systems, serving as building blocks upon which we mold more complex, future beliefs. Much like building a house, our most elemental beliefs are deployed in the foundation of our belief system abode. As our belief structure rises, we utilize these more fundamental beliefs in the fabrication of the compound and complex beliefs from which the upper floors are constructed.
While more complex beliefs are more readily modified, fundamental beliefs, once accepted, are rarely questioned, and the rigidity with which we hold them is in direct proportion to how close they are to the core of our belief system. In a sense, we each have a vested interest in maintaining our own belief status quo, since the calling into question or modification of a core or fundamental belief may cause the entire structure to collapse, like a house of cards.
It is no surprise that once one adopts a point of view, he doggedly maintains its accuracy, even when presented with evidence to the contrary. This is particularly true of political and religious convictions, and the reason for the common admonishment not to argue about these subjects in polite company.
It is the unusual individual who challenges commonly-held beliefs and, in so doing, establishes the foundation upon which to construct a new belief system. Albert Einstein was just such an individual. Einstein’s theories rocked the pillars of Newtonian physics and have served as a foundation for development of knowledge that may ultimately permit us to travel to the ends of the universe. By the way, according to Einstein the “shortest distance between two points,” for reasons which I will not articulate, is a “curve.” Someday in the future, perhaps Einstein’s beliefs will be deemed partially or completely erroneous and a new hierarchy of belief in the field of physics will be erected. Nevertheless, his courage in challenging the scientific establishment has advanced man’s understanding of his universe and should, therefore, be applauded.
As our nation battles a deep recession and debates the propriety of change and the exact makeup that such prospective change will take across an array of issues from foreign policy to healthcare to the nature and role of government in our society, I am struck by the resistance of American leadership at both ends of the political spectrum to consider the issues at hand from a fresh perspective. This, however, does not come as a surprise, since the very notion of change at its root dictates a modification of one’s fundamental beliefs, the very thought of which emboldens resistance in even the most open-minded of us. Yet, progress and the advancement of humankind throughout the millennia have always demanded that new “truths” supplant old beliefs.
And so, as you consider the problems and options of today, challenge your beliefs, even those that you hold most deeply. You, like Einstein, may discover a new “truth” that will radically change your life and perhaps the lives of many.