Jennifer and I sometimes get asked what we believe about life’s “big questions”, like our views on death, God, and the purpose of life. Are there “core truths” we believe in, that provide us comfort or guidance on these issues? Or do we reject all belief and wander through life aimlessly? These questions usually come from people who not only believe their own answers to these questions, but who “know” them to be true in a universal and absolute sense, and see a life without this assurance as rather sad. We love thinking about these questions, and enjoy sharing our beliefs about them.
Before I continue, I want to clarify that there isn’t anything that I know to be absolutely true, but there are things that I believe to be true with different degrees of certainty. Granted, I do see logical statements such as “my father’s brother is my uncle” or “1+1=2” as true because of how I understand the definition of those terms. But once these statements are brought into the physical world, it becomes much more complicated. Absolute truth seems to exist in theory, but I’m not sure if it can be known in this physical reality, unless the knower is omniscient, as there are always other variables that can come into play. Epistemology, or the study of how we know things, is a subject that fascinates me, and explains more on this topic.
What I Believe
Putting logic and grammar and omniscience aside, let me get back to the question of what I do believe. Here are some of my strongest beliefs:
- I am (in other words, I exist)
- Change is constant
- Acceptance brings peace
Each of these beliefs is based on the external (physical, material) and internal (emotional, spiritual) evidence I have experienced up to this point in my life, and my personal interpretation of this evidence. Again, I make no claims as to their absolute truth. To some, it may seem delusional to question one’s own existence. But isn’t it possible that we might be brains in a vat, binary (or quantum) bits in an alien computer simulation, or only hallucinating or dreaming life? If so, maybe it wouldn’t change the fact that we exist, but it might give a very different meaning to the words “I” and “exist”.
Putting these beliefs together, I do believe I exist, and I believe that will one day change (or at least the way in which I exist will change). Accepting this, rather than resisting it, leads to peace. This also leads into the topic of death.
My Beliefs about Death
I see death as a change, like birth, or the opening of a flower, or even a passing thought. I’m open to the possibility that we continue on after we die, possibly with some remnant of thought or personality. But I’m also open to the possibility of it being the end of the individual’s conscious existence. I’m open to the idea that we live again and again in different bodies. And I’m open to the possibility that upon death, our bodies decompose (this seems obvious) and our consciousness gets absorbed by (or becomes one with) the universe. If I had to pick which version I lean toward, it would probably be the last one, but only slightly, as I don’t have enough information or experience to hold a strong belief toward any of these ideas. I’m fascinated by those who have reported near death experiences, although they are also subjective, often contradictory, and do not prove an objective after-death reality.
Fortunately, I find the mystery of death and the after-life largely irrelevant with regard to how I choose to live my life now. I am uncertain what will happen after I die. But I do believe that I exist here and now, and I want to make the most of this time while I have it. (More on that later.)
It’s natural to mourn the loss of a loved one, and I think allowing these emotions is healthy. But if the sadness persists or increases, it is probably because we’re holding onto an expectation that things need to stay the same in order for us to be happy. When we let go of what we wish were happening, and accept what is happening, we experience peace. And when we gratefully embrace, love, and celebrate what is happening, we experience joy. At least, this is my experience. Death can be beautiful. Change is part of life and death, and it can be appreciated for what it is in each and every moment. Learning how to embrace change, I believe, is one of the keys to lasting happiness.
My Beliefs about God
The word “god” has come to mean so many different things to so many different people, that it is difficult to speak clearly about this subject and have the words understood in the way they’re intended. So let me start with a blank slate. What if we woke up into existence one day and didn’t have any answers given to us about how we got here, or anything else? From looking at the world around and within us, there would be a lot of things we couldn’t explain — things that seem mysterious, complicated, or even magical. In our desire for answers, it makes sense to me how a supernatural creator would enter our heads as a solution to this mystery, and I do see it as a valid possibility. But it is only one possible explanation. Others include random chance, consciousness creating itself in different forms, or we could bring in the aliens again (but then how did they get here?). :)
If a god does exist, what form does it take, if any? Does it exist outside of time and space? Why did it create us? Further, why and how does this god exist? (i.e. Who created God and why?) Humans have come up with vastly varying answers to these questions over the millennia, many claiming to be direct revelation from God himself. If any of these sources is correct, how do we know? Some say to ask God himself, and many do, but they get different answers. How can we know that our answer is the correct one, and that we are interpreting the message as God intends?
In my search for answers to these questions, I must admit I simply do not know how we got here, or why. Coming from a strong religious background myself where I “knew” these answers, it was at first difficult to accept this uncertainty. But peace has come with learning to accept and even appreciate the magical mystery of life. I’m still curious about how things work, and welcome new ways of understanding these questions, but along the way, I marvel at what appears in my experience, and try to appreciate it just as it is.
If I had to choose a belief about a creator, my experience up to this point leads to me believe that the universe itself is a creative force of which we are all a part, down to subatomic levels. I don’t know how it works or why, but I do feel creative energy within me. I can reproduce. I can envision something that has never existed before, and make it real, just as hydrogen and oxygen molecules bond to make water, and as plants and animals grow and evolve. Isn’t it magical that all of this works as it does? I also get to choose how I view the world around me, and to a degree, how I interact with it. In a way, you could say that I am the god of my own reality. To me, this is empowering and exciting.
My beliefs about the Purpose of Life
Because I don’t claim to know any truth for certain, I don’t claim that there is any one purpose to life that everyone must live. From my observations, it appears that life can take on any meaning that we want to give it. If there is something we want out of life, we can focus on it, and move toward it. If we want happiness, for example, we can determine for ourselves what brings us happiness, and live our lives accordingly. What people want, and how they go about getting it, may be different for everyone. And every choice is okay.
My purpose in life regularly changes, but at the moment, I feel a strong desire to connect better with my authentic self, at the level below thought and belief, and then live from that place. I want to connect with others at this same level, enjoying the deep heart-enlarging sensations I feel in the process. I want to increase my ability to feel, and increase my awareness of the thoughts and sensations that arise in my experience, and their source. I want to be more conscious of the choices I’m making, why I’m making them, and the impact they’re having.
I want to live my life doing what I love, what I’m good at, giving from my core, and appreciating each moment as it arises. I want to continue expanding in abundance, success, and love every day, while inspiring those around me to do the same. I enjoy writing and sharing my perspectives on life. I enjoy working on the creative aspects of my businesses, seeing my ideas come to life, and seeing others enjoying my creations. I enjoy playing the piano and singing, learning challenging new pieces and techniques, creating my own, and performing them for others. In short, my purpose of life is to enjoy being alive!
Knowledge and Change
Well, that’s a little bit about what I believe based on my life experience so far. If you believe different things based on your experience, that’s great. If you think you “know” something to be absolutely true, that’s fine, too, although I feel like the words “know” and “true” are often thrown around so casually, without thought given to what those words can imply (I’ve seen dictionaries with up to twelve definitions of the word “know”). So I try to remember that these words mean different things to different people, and I’m more curious about how and in what way a person knows what they say they know, and how confident they really are in their assertion. (Epistemology again…)
I expect that my beliefs will continue changing as I gain more life experience. Or at least, I’ll have the opportunity to change them as more evidence presents itself one way or another, and as I see new perspectives from which to interpret that evidence. It’s up to me to be open to the change, and not cling too tightly to any belief, or I run the risk of deceiving myself. I try to be aware of my desire to be “right” and my ego’s natural resistance to anything that challenges this. It’s difficult to admit that “I might be wrong”, but I’ve seen how this view of clinging to being “right” divides rather than connects, as it often subconsciously paints another person or group as “wrong”, further separating both parties. Just as acceptance brings peace, resistance brings war. And it takes practice to be aware of everything I’m resisting.
Thanks for taking the time to read. I welcome any comments you want to share about what thoughts or feelings this post brought up for you, and what your beliefs are on these subjects, either in the comments below or through email.