Unexamined Beliefs

As I sit here at my favorite neighborhood coffee shop, staring out the window at traffic, bikers, people jogging, people walking dogs, children running around, I am surrounded by life. But I’m thinking about death, due to a project I’m working on for school. But I think about death a lot. I probably spend far too much time considering death and what it means. My own personal philosophy that I’ve adopted for myself (and for a theoretical future therapeutic practice) has death at its core, and chooses to not only acknowledge, but celebrate mortality and the finiteness of life. Our society is terrified of death, and most people choose to ignore it or not think about it, or regard any discussion of it as “morbid” or unhealthy. We hide grief and sanitize the dying process to make it easier on survivors. Thusly, cynically or no, I’ve long-held the belief that suicide is a very personal decision and no one has the right to impede upon it. Admittedly, it’s selfish, but lots of things that people do are selfish, and suicide is just one more terribly selfish option. I know that as a future mental health-care practitioner I’m not really allowed to say that I think people have the inherent right to off themselves if they so choose, but I also think they should be made fully aware of how ugly it all is.

Both liberals and conservatives alike, I think, have extremely knee-jerk reactions and beliefs in a lot of areas. Ask anyone with strong convictions, either way, how they feel about contentious social and political ideas and most of them will spout off very strong and impassioned beliefs and values. But about 80% of the time, if you probe deeper, you’ll find that most people haven’t done their homework or really understand what they believe, or why, or what the real repercussions or consequences of those beliefs are. I’m including myself in that.

I was recently assigned to argue against something I feel (felt) passionately about in a class debate, and for weeks I’ve been dismayed and frustrated at having to make a case for something I felt had zero case to be made for it, aside from puritanical and misguided (in my opinion) religious beliefs.

But it’s funny how when you really start digging, and you make a tacit agreement with yourself to keep an open mind (in order to make a good grade if nothing else), you can sometimes get hit with a knowledge and wisdom so hard it feels like a truck. And you had no idea that such knowledge and wisdom existed on a topic that you had already personally closed the book on. So to speak.

It’s also funny, and a little disenheartening, to realize how scary that can be. Sometimes I feel like I have to be the good liberal and support the “liberal” policies, even when, after finding real information, that policy and position feels wrong to me. Even if it’s just on a visceral level. I despise people who make decisions on their gut or their emotions (at least in theory I despise it) without thining logically about it, but sometimes, a gut feeling can be a sign that what you have in your head is wrong, at least for you, and that you should pay attention to that. Your instinct is rarely incorrect.

So on this issue, I’m still torn. I confessed this to my debate partner the other night, that I thought my mind was changing due to our research, and she thought I was crazy. She listened respectfully to what I had to say about it, but didn’t have much to say back, because she thought I was crazy.

I love, for the first time in my life, living in a state that has a truly liberal governing body. Even if half the state’s constituents are still very conservative. The liberal urban population has more sway when electing officials, and thus, Oregon remains at the forefront on many controversial social issues (environmental, social, medical, etc). But it’s a bit of a strange feeling, feeling at odds with at least a tiny bit of that for pretty much the first time in my life.

Eh. Perhaps I’m overstating it. All I know is that I agreed to keep an open mind, and now feel it being changed. No wonder people are so terrified of having an open mind. And most of the time it seems those who claim to have the most open minds are in fact the most closed, and the most scared of having their own minds changed.

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