Life is a strange thing. We are all living it, but we can’t agree on what exactly is happening with it. We ask each other what’s going on, and sometimes we believe what they tell us. But the thing is, nobody knows for sure. Nobody has any clue. We all just do the best we can and we have our own beliefs to comfort us, but at the end of the day, every single one of us is just making it up as we go along.
When I was a kid I was taught to believe whatever an authority told me, and I also was taught that everyone was an authority over me. As a result, I relied on people to tell me who I was. I was horribly confused and lost for a very long time. I asked many people what my purpose on earth was, what career I should pursue, what kind of person I was. I believed they knew better than I did. I believed that my ego prevented me from having a clear view of myself. What I believed was bullshit.
There’s something to be said for experts who spend years studying material things and processes, like cardiology or physics or law. It’s highly recommended to seek the help of a plumber when your pipes are broken or a mechanic when your car breaks down. But there is no objectivity when it comes to things like the meaning of life, purpose, spirituality, or your own potential. People can share their experiences and opinions with you, but there are no authorities on these matters. Religious leaders, in particular, like you to think they know more about spiritual matters than you, but this is false. They may spend more time thinking about it, or studying ancient texts, or meditating, but they have no real answers. They only know what comforts them. That does not mean it is Truth.
Consider the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” One person sees an animal and says it is beautiful. Another says it’s ugly. Which is Truth? Neither, and both. A thing simply is, the judgments we impose on it are a matter of preference. Even personal accounts of an outside event can vary wildly depending upon what each person finds relevant about the situation and what the person’s biases are.
Last weekend I entered an acrylic painting in a local art show. I am very proud of this piece, it’s one of my favorites. There were many awards given out for acrylic paintings but I did not get one of them. I confess I was disappointed. But last night I received a phone call. I had entered a miniature version of that same painting into a state-wide contest. It won an award, beating out over 300 other entries. Two people looked at the same work of art and saw vastly different things.
This is why I do not take it personally when someone doesn’t like my work, or just doesn’t like me. Judges have come right out and said they chose a painting because they like dogs, or circles, or the color blue. People’s biases color their perception, and it gets distorted. We never see something for what it is, we see it for how it makes us feel. And feelings are not an accurate measure of Truth and Objectivity.
When I was hanging around New Age people, they used to say to me, if it feels true, it is true. Unfortunately that proved to be wishful thinking, and a lot of people stubbornly engage in that. It is difficult to step back from our emotional responses and gauge the true merit of things. And even if we can temper our emotional responses, we still have our histories, experiences, and subconscious fears leading us in subtle ways. This is why the scientific method requires results to be reproduced by many other scientists and not just one person or team. It is the best way we have right now of finding out what is objectively likely to be true.
However, just because something is not reproducible in a lab does not mean it isn’t true. Experiences vary widely because of underlying factors, but saying something isn’t real because a scientist didn’t have the same experience is silly. Many people claim to have experienced an unexplainable divine or supernatural event. These things cannot be replicated in any satisfactory way. They are mysterious, but not necessarily untrue just because they cannot be proven. It’s like saying that music is simply a combination of tones and that is all. That, after all, is how science would define music. But music has the power to move people to tears, to uplift them into ecstasy, or to drive someone to madness. Something indefinable happens to transform a series of sound waves into a spiritual experience.
Perhaps some logical minds would explain something about chemicals in the brain being triggered to create a euphoric feeling. This explanation for spirituality, however, falls flat. If it was that simple, everyone would react the same way to the same tones. But as we all know, one person can love a song while another person is indifferent or even hates it. There is some other factor going on that defies scientific reasoning.
So while authority absolutely has its place, for some things we need to stop looking to others for answers and start listening to ourselves. And also realize that our answers are not Truth for everyone else, either. Some things, like art and music and spirituality, can only be experienced inside ourselves. This is why it really bothers me when people hate on others for what they like. What a cold, boring world it would be if we all had to agree on what everyone could like!