Recently, I had one of my close friends from university send me a link to a video featuring a couple of speakers presenting their ideas on faith & science. In the years since university, I’ve become more comfortable in my relationship with “faith”.
I recall back then that I felt “different” or “defective” in not having a solid understanding of what faith meant to me. Seeing others around me readily accept or be able to feel the effects of faith in their life made me curious why I didn’t experience the same thing.
I’ve always be drawn to the sciences and math. There’s an elegance to those topics that I appreciate. In the same way that I’ve come to appreciate prose & writing, I understand how the sciences and math are just languages that help us understand the world around us. In the same vein as Donald Hoffman’s argument that we deal with “interfaces” to interact with reality, these languages are a kind of interface for me.
Being naturally curious, the sciences and maths offered a way to better understand the inner workings of the world. I don’t believe that they replaced faith for me. They were merely a way to feed my curiosity.
I remember listening to the stories in church every week as a kid and appreciating them for what they are to me – stories that have something to learn from. However, I never felt that “presence” or belief that others around me had experienced. And up until university, that was fine. At that point, however, I did become curious about faiths and my relationship to them.
The more I read on faiths while also keeping up with the sciences, the more I saw ideas being presented by authors as the “correct” or “right” way to think about things. I realize that I had also taken that approach to my own way of thinking and narrowing down what I chose to believe in & promote. That is, I felt that there can only be one explanation for things – if I didn’t agree with someone’s ideas, obviously someone was wrong and the other was right.
I began to notice how this would reveal itself to me even when I was just beginning to listen to someone or read something they had written. That my biases would immediately appear and begin to influence my perception.
When I started watching the video my friend had sent me, I felt this right away but was fortunate to be able to notice this, and put my biases aside. Rather than judging what this person was presenting as either wrong or right, I began to notice a few things.
One, that it doesn’t matter which side of any “fence” you’re on – that many conversations today seem to focus on convincing the other person, to persuade them to change the way they think. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with persuasion as long as it comes from a place of understanding and service – it’s not a “battle” that you’re trying to win, it’s a gift that you’re giving to someone. Second, I see how much easier conversations & life in general become when you don’t feel the need to be right all the time.
It takes a lot of energy to create your own structures of opinion & thought and to continue to maintain them in the face of criticism & feedback from others. I know for myself that sometimes the idea of being “right” becomes more important that the original idea itself. The moment I released the need to be right I felt relief and interestingly, I started feeling more curious.
I’m honest with the fact that there will still be ideas that will resonate with me, and others that will not. It doesn’t mean that I will suddenly accept anything that is presented to me. However, approaching these situations without the need to be right from the start is helping me have deeper & more interesting conversations now.