Growing up, many of us were lead to believe in the existence of Santa Claus. We would rush down stairs every morning and look for our presents we would dress ourselves in the new clothes we were given, we would scarf down chocolate until we were sick, and we would drink up the lies we were told about Santa’s visit. We were fully and completely convinced of his existence.
But do you remember how you felt when you realized that it was an absolute lie… that there was no Santa Claus. I’m not talking about the betrayal you felt, but the way it shattered your entire belief system. Many kids state to wonder if anything they’d ever believed was true.
What if I were to tell you that what I once believed was one of the most harmful things you could do to a child actually turned out to be the most helpful. That is realizing this, my world was shattered as well and I started questioning everything that I believed to be true.
The lesson here is in the pains of attachment. It is much the same attachment that we acquire for those we love. When they are around we feel bliss and security and when they are gone, we feel pain and suffering. We feel empty inside and often we wonder if life is nothing but pain. And we adventure through the five stages of grief (in no particular order): Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. Like the attachment we feel with people and the pain that comes with their passing, we feel this same pain and process when our ideas are shattered.
“Losing an idea is like losing a friend. What once gave you security and peace of mind, has now been ripped away from you, maybe suddenly, maybe slowly, but it hurts just the same.”
The lesson that believing in and finding out Santa was never real teaches a child to question what they are told, whether intentional or not, even from their parents. With a really intelligent child, it can teach them neutrality. This is something we will be coming back to.
The Five States of An Idea’s Death
(The following is only an example of how an idea’s lose is taken, since it has been proven that the five stages of grief are entered in no particular order.)
When our ideas are proven wrong many of us begin in the state of denial. We find every reason, no matter how insignificant, uncorrelated, or fallacy-based it is. The thing about this stage is… its not a bad thing. To question what we think, we first must question what we are told. To refute an argument to our fullest potential is what puts us on the path to the correct conclusion. However, it is important to consider how we handle this stage. When our reasonable rebuttals (those based on evidence and not emotion or a logical fallacy) are met with reasonable replies, we must be willing to begin the process of accepting that maybe our idea is wrong.
Often when we run out of arguments, emotional or logical, we start getting heated. We start considering what might be wrong with the other PERSON. The idea presented becomes an afterthought in the attempt to invalidate an argument based on someone’s character. This is a fallacy, its called ad hominem. Why do people attack another person’s character when they run out of arguments? It is a way of writing off the discussion, hoping to remain in our biased comfort zone. We want to remain correct and we are angry that we are running out of arguments so we attack people’s characters in denial of the truth. This is when denial becomes anger and we become destructive to our friendships.
After we have calmed down, maybe a few days later, some of us will talk about it again. Often finding really far fetched examples to support our idea, small instances where it makes sense. This is a other fallacy, it is called special pleading. We go through the stage of bargaining, trying to regain a foothold into the world we once knew. And for those of us who love truth, more than we love the comfort of being right, we will slowly slip into the final stage before acceptance: Depression.
In this stage we start to piece together all of our ideas that correlated with our old (now false) assumption. We’ll think about other ideas this now disproves and decisions we have made based on our old idea and all the correlating ideas. Often this will be a very depressing realization. It can shatter whole worlds if the idea is significant enough. Many people have had to abandon dreams, leave jobs, or break friendship because of one false idea. As I’ve said, the death of an idea can be just as devastating as the death of a person we have loved, because we love our ideas…they keep us safe and secure.
Most people will go through their lives having a few crises and others, those deeply dedicated to the truth and to seeking out new ideas, will have a great deal of these idea deaths. It can be painful and exhausting. And one of the biggest disadvantages to the process is its ability to cause a person to miss other aspects of truth hidden within the larger truth. A person can only work through one major idea crisis at a time if they hope to really gain the wisdom they seek from it. However, the good news is, there is another way.
Those deep knowledge seekers who hope to constantly have their ideas challenged and are comfortable with these deaths have discovered there is, in fact, a way around this process all together. This path is called neutrality. It is discussed in Taoism, Stoicism, and even Buddhism. It is a large part of these philosophies and has become a very important part of my life, personally, because of my study of I Liq Chaun and martial arts in general.
Neutrality involves taking what Buddhists call the “middle path.” It is about not getting overly attached to an idea so as to be able to change in an instant. But there are many misconceptions about what it means to be neutral. Many, upon hearing this, will assume that to be neutral means not having opinions or ideas. Or maybe they will think you shouldn’t strongly support your opinions and ideas through debate or activism. Neither of these are the true nature of neutrality.
Just as holding firm to your beliefs despite overwhelming evidence, if you were to have no beliefs and no ideas that you stood strongly for you wouldn’t be neutral, either. Instead you would be wishy-washy. Able to be carried off to any religion, any cult that approached you and invited you to their belief system. Both of these ways of being tend to create an unhealthy set of ideas and unhappiness in at least the short-term…
So what am I talking about? What is neutrality?
It is the ability to flow like water. To sharpen our ability to see truth as we pass along, flowing easily from one truth to another, effortlessly. It is our ability to stay in the present moment that creates this ability. When you are completely involved in every moment of your life, your senses sharpen and so does your focus, concentration and awareness…because you are meditating.
Mediating isn’t as hippy-dippy as many say it is. It is simply a fixation on the deep now. A willingness to set aside our thoughts about the past and the future to see the bigger picture of now. When we take time out of our ideas to focus on the argument being made and fully hear it, without making arguments, we are allowing it to integrate into our knowledge base. Only after we have heard it should we take time to compare it to our own ideas and to question which makes more sense. Maybe you will even find that neither make sense. This is how one stays neutral. By allowing ideas in and comparing them without emotional attachment to our own ideas.
Once we allow for emotional attachment to our ideas we are setting ourselves up for the emotional roller coaster that is the Death of an Idea. If we remain emotionally open to new ideas, we find a center with the universe in which we pivot around it, because it will never pivot around us.
So its your decision. With this new information, do you choose to consider it, to remain in the present moment long enough to find the truth in what I am saying, along with the falsities? Or do you remain emotionally attached to an adverse opinion? Which will serve you better? These are the questions you need to ask yourself. To question is to be neutral. To stop questioning is to stagnate and none of us are omnipotent enough to be right about everything…