“Don’t believe the things
you tell yourself so late at night
You are your own worst enemy,
You’ll never win the fight.”—Ingrid Michaelson, “Parachute”
“You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.” –Swami Vivekananda
“The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.”–Frank Lloyd Wright
“If ye have faith…nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (Matthew 17:20)
“For this individual soul is incapable of being cut; and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. This soul is eternal, constant, omnipresent, unchangeable, immovable and everlasting.”—Bhagavad-Gita Chapter II verse 24
For those of you read this blog a lot you know that I have a particularly annoying troll. He doesn’t seem to know very much, but is constantly offended by the fact that I am very confident in my beliefs.
His logic seems to be based on a single quote from a truly hackish pseudo-philosopher he follows religiously:
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts.”—Bertrand Russell
My little troll even goes as far to quote on a study that won an Ig Noble award that wasted research time to find out the obvious point that people who are inept at their jobs are often convinced they do a great job, to prove his point.
But Russell is an idiot, for numerous reasons, but in this case for not acknowledging that history is filled with people who were very intelligent who were certain of their beliefs and who ignored the doubts of others and themselves and who went on to achieve greatness and often improve the world. I would say that a general rule of common sense is that if you can easily list off 50-100 counter examples without even thinking to a statement it probably shouldn’t be regarded as gospel truth. And just because you find a study that says the inept are often over confident, it does not follow that everyone who is confident is inept (but you would have to know something about logic to know that).
The fact of the matter is not that the problem of the modern world is that the ignorant are overconfident, it’s that they’re not self reflective. The problem is not only are the intelligent full of doubt but that doubt in and of itself has become a virtue. Why? Well this is the weekly meditation blog so I’m going to give you a spiritual answer: The Ego.
That mis-created part of yourself that keeps you from knowing that you are part of God, that you are perfect, that you are not powerless and able to control your own life.
And as always the ego plays two separate games, offers you two options that are equally foolish. To those who do not want to be self reflective it rewards them by telling them they’re right for not being self reflective—it makes you over confident and uses that overconfidence to keep you from improving. Or if you choose self reflection it brings doubt to everything, it tries to make it appear as if anything you do, anything you say, anything you believe in must be wrong…and if you’re so terrible at knowing anything so must everyone else be incapable of knowing anything (it is this side that my silly little troll seems to live in constantly).
And while my troll seems utterly incapable of learning in this lifetime, I would not begin to think everyone is so far gone into listening to the lies of their ego.
You are put on this planet to accomplish, learn, and the lack of self-reflection and doubts hinder your assignment and improvement.
So how do we counter this?
The first is through self reflection. Complacency and habitual ignorance are not places to be. You must question everything you believe. Ask why you believe it. Ask if you have proof and if that proof justifies what you believe.
The second is not giving into doubt. That kind of constant questioning can lead to frustration and hopelessness. Don’t give into it. Know that you are capable of finding the answer; that your mind and soul are in the end infinitely knowledgeable. And you have to believe that the answer you find is the right one, be open to new evidence or a new way of looking at things, but you must proceed every day not giving into the paralysis of doubt…for in that way madness lies. Sometimes, obviously you’ll have to make choices on insufficient evidence with insufficient time to decide, but you have to go on the best information you have at the time and trust that you made the best choice you could at the time.
Honest self-reflection and questioning of your beliefs are not the same as doubt. Doubt is the belief that you cannot know. Self-reflection is merely admitting that while you can know, you’re human and may be wrong…but you should never assume you’re wrong unless you have not taken time to think about what you believe and have not had evidence to the contrary considered.
Now really this is more a life-long habit to adopt, repeat, and refine. It’s going to take more time than a week’s mantra…but a meditation on it is a good start.
So for this week I suggest two meditations.
The first one in the morning is a mantra:
I will reflect on my beliefs and my choices before I act. I will not doubt my decisions. I will reflect again when I have a chance and see if I made errors or mistakes, and I will not make them again.
The second is at the end of the day to reflect on your thoughts and decisions again. To reflect on their outcomes and where you were right and where you were wrong. Congratulate yourself for where you were right and make a note not to repeat the same mistake where you’re wrong.
This will at least help build a habit that will be a bulwark against the ego’s doubts.