The US presidential election is a lot on my mind these days. And especially the way people are taking positions and show limited mutual empathy. How come we tend to get stuck in our own views?
I recently read a quote from Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), an Egyptian philosopher:
“Men like the opinions to which they have become accustomed from youth; this prevents them from finding the truth, for they cling to the opinions of habit.”
There are people who think that they get closer to the truth by providing evidence in favour of their own familiar ideas and by rejecting the ideas of others.
Develop your own view
The opposit is true in my opinion. You’ll get closer to the truth as you are able to explore the different views of others while remaining true to your own view. It is often easier to get to know yourself by talking to someone who is and thinks different. Because having another view helps you to sharpen and develop your own view.
So the way forward often begins with turning inwards. If we begin to see that we can use our heart, head and gut in order to achieve a deeper wisdom, the way forward sometimes arises unexpectedly. The classical Greek philosophers called it noesis: inner wisdom. Do we spend enough time on noesis? In times when the pressure continues to increase, it appears to be more important than ever to take time for this.
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) said:
“He who knows only his side of the case, knows little of that.”
So the art of understanding and embodying a view emerges when we interact with someone who thinks differently. The difficulty lies in the fact that we love to stick to our own familiar ideas, and enjoy being with likeminded people.
Deeper wisdom set things in motion
More and more I get the feeling that a lot of people are actually not looking for this deeper wisdom. Because finding deeper wisdom always leads to change, to movement, to standing up for something. Many people find it much easier to look for causes outside themselves, so they don’t have to take responsibility themselves. Also in the Netherlands this is politically exploited and it leads to the crippling of certain population groups.
In my quest for inner wisdom I therefore let myself be surprised with all kinds of different views and I notice that my thoughts, and therefore the way I live, changes. It does mean, however, that I can temporarily let go of my old ideas and should not only look for confirmation of my own thoughts. Searching becomes understanding concepts that are fundamentally different from my own views. What an enrichment to allow yourself this kind of life.
How do you nourish this enriching perspective in your life? Are you only looking to confirm your own ideas? Then I would like to challenge you to start meeting people who are totally different and with fundamentally different perspectives!