Suspense grips the audience... the same two hands with white gloves are dragging a dead body, one more time. Who could be this serial killer? Is it the servant, the gardener, the accountant or the cook? Sounds familiar?
Many such films go on and on only because the needle of suspicion never points towards the real killer until the end—all along, he looked too innocent to kill. Luckily, we don’t make this kind of mistake at the airports where we all are frisked—some follow a protocol of frisking even the VIPs.
Now, let me draw your attention to real-life serial killings that we all have been helplessly watching for decades. Last year, one or more terrorist attacks took place somewhere in the world, every single day. The situation is far more alarming than we would care to admit.
Isn’t it time to learn from the plot of murder mysteries and airport security protocols and refrain from giving the benefit of doubt to anything? Let us consider our beliefs, for instance. Since, to us, our beliefs look so innocuous, if not pious, we will hate to suspect that our beliefs, unbeknownst to us, could be hand in glove with our egos to give rise to highly inflammable conflicts, too.
Let me explain:
If we are looking at a tree, and you notice something in it that I feel is only a figment of your imagination, we can walk up to it and check for ourselves. When we discuss confirmable objective reality, conflicts can be averted or resolved, so easily.
However, this is not the case when we start speculating about questions such as where do we come from and for what purpose? Where will we go after our death? And who created this world? Since our answers to these questions would depend on our conditioning that is as unique as our thumbprint, it makes agreements difficult, if not impossible.
If we both understand that we don’t know the truth and are discussing for the sake of passing time, we will be safe.
However, if we...
●Identify ourselves with our
●Perceive these not as our inherited beliefs but the ultimate truth (veracity).
●Seek to discover the ultimate purpose of our lives in these beliefs (importance).
●Identify with and feel our unconditional allegiance to the tribe-like group of people (with a specific name) who share a major chunk of our inherited beliefs (labelling), our disagreements are likely to result in mutual dislike or hatred that, with time, could escalate into violence.
Let us examine how this evil comes into being and why it must be demolished.
Ego. Unable to make a distinction between ourselves and our beliefs, our egos make us behave more like lawyers than scientists when it comes to defending them. Known as confirmation bias in psychology, this tendency makes us unconsciously choose the sources we consider, the pieces of information we select, the interpretations we make and the conclusions we draw in ways that validate our beliefs instead of discovering the truth.
Veracity. Often, the beliefs we espouse are not what we have reasoned ourselves towards but what we could not find time, energy, support and courage to reason away from. As per the mere exposure principle discovered by Robert Zajonc, prolonged exposure to any unchallenged views or beliefs makes them appear true and good to us.
Importance. A DVD would play whatever is burned into it; pasting a different label on it won’t modify its contents. Most of our inherited beliefs are like these labels: we are not these beliefs but what we do despite them. Not only are they unnecessary, for we will never need these for doing anything meaningful, they are a threat to our unity and peace, too.
Labelling. Every time we identify ourselves and others as our labelled religion, race or set of beliefs, we, unknowingly, disintegrate the society into tribe-like clusters of people. Today, our world has sadly become a disparate collection of “belief” islands with almost no bridges of common understanding connecting them. It is a pity that we are progressively turning a real world—the only one we and our future generations would live in—into a hell, for the sake of our beliefs about an imaginary world that no one has seen. For what reason do the flowers bloom, the rivers flow, the rainbows form, the birds sing and the lovers love in this world? All that is beautiful in this world is just so—it is not in an anticipation of a reward from an unseen being in an unseen world.
We, too, can be beautiful. Let us wear our beliefs like a loose shirt and do good in this moment, in this life and in this world, only because it is the right thing to do.
(The author is a corporate trainer, keynote speaker and the writer of Reverse of Your Thoughts, Reverse Your Diseases and other books.)