Unshakeable. Basic and fundamental. Core. All can be used to describe beliefs; things we have accepted as the very bedrock of our understanding and acceptance of our world and its reality. Some of those are essentially identical for all of us: things such as that we were born to our parents (as opposed to hatched let’s say), that we live on a planet that co-exists in a vast darkness knows as space / the universe. Granted much of what we know is taught, be it by our parents or our schooling. But they are beliefs we have embraced as truth as far back as to very bedrock of our understanding of life – the foundation of our world. What would happen were we to learn a fundamental belief to which we’ve built who and what we are upon, were suddenly proven to be wrong?
For many people, their entire belief system would be called into question and could, conceivably, crumble. If one lifelong fundamental tenet that you’ve always held as unquestionable and absolute should suddenly turn out to be false, surely wouldn’t everything else become suspect? And how would one ever reconcile it, resolve it? Consider the effect upon you should you discover, irrefutably, that the earth is flat. Or that aliens walk among us. Something so earth-shattering that it rocks you to the core and your entire understanding of who and what you are with it. Those are just examples that I reached rather deeply to find and may or may not be particularly adequate in conveying my intent.
If you read all my countless words I’ve thrown out here in these ramblings over the last year or so, you may recall that I had always suspected that I had another mother when I was very young. And in searching for truth to that belief, at age 17 while rummaging through my father’s files in his home office, I found that not only was I right – there had been a mom before my current one who had died when I was 5 – but also that I was, in fact, adopted. So you might ask why I didn’t use examples such as these in setting up this pondering; truth be told, I simply didn’t find them significant enough. Certainly I was very affected personally by the revelation. But having had a mom who had died in my youth, nor being adopted, are even close to the magnitude of a core belief I am trying to probe at here today. I know plenty of people who lost a mom or a dad when they were young. And equally as many who are adopted and didn’t find out until later in life. Those are perhaps upsetting, but not earth-shattering. Life changing – maybe – to some extent. But you will almost certainly still be the person you were up to the moment of discovery. I am poking at a core belief that turns everything upside down when suddenly discovered to be false.
Certainly every one of our individual lives have been viciously assaulted by life, by fate, and each of those moments scarred us and changed us. (Sidebar here – one of my privileges as the writer. Did you ever notice the scared and scarred are only one letter separated and are so interwoven in the core, root emotions evoked by the words themselves? But then there’s desert and dessert…..you have to adore the construct of the English language!) OK – back to topic. My point here is that we all suffer throughout our lives and while those events change us, they do not (except in extremely severe cases) crumble our entire belief systems to the core.
Frankly, even something as profound as a firsthand and genuine face to face experience with a ghost would reach the level to which I am aiming. (And note here that I am neither professing to, nor denying, a belief in the existence of ghosts or spirits. I intuitively want to believe but my rational logical side tends to refute the possibility. A conundrum for another time.) No – I am reaching further here today.
Think of the Matrix, a SciFi flick of some renown in which it is ultimately discovered that humanity is unknowingly trapped within a virtual reality; they are essentially being used as batteries by an artificial intelligence monstrosity which provides each person a virtual life of “normalcy” and “reality” to keep them distracted and oblivious to their horrific real lives. Now learning that truth will rock you to the core. How could you reconcile that every single thing you’ve experienced, seen, felt, or have memories of, were all lies? That they were all merely computer generated to keep you occupied while the “machine” feasted on your body. That, is a core shaking, foundation crumbling, belief system destroying moment!
So why this post? What triggered it? I’m not entirely sure. I think a couple of things coupled with spare time started germinating this pondering. First is that we are, this year, celebrating the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon. Please understand, dear reader, that I have no idea of the age range of anyone who may read my posts; logic tells me there would probably not be many young people interested in what I have to say, but there may be some. So I need to provide at least some context here.
America was a hotbed of anguish and change in the ‘60’s; civil unrest, the Cold War, the Cuban Missile crisis, and migration of social and cultural beliefs – it was a violently tumultuous decade. Without having lived through it, it may be difficult to fully comprehend the angst America felt in their daily lives; the average American was besieged with change from every conceivable angle and aspect – threats abounded on every horizon. And one of the most frightening of those was the political posturing of the USSR. With the proliferation of nuclear weapons and global instability, that Soviet machine was one of our largest threats and a genuine fear for pretty much every citizen. There was a never ending, testosterone driven, competition between our two countries. As part of that, President Kennedy issued a challenge to NASA to place a man on the moon, and get him back to earth safely, before the end of the decade. It was a bold display of “dog-dare you” by the US to the USSR and both countries revved up their space programs.
And of course, on July 20 1969, Apollo 11 fulfilled that challenge. It was a huge deal; to me as a 13 year old boy on a hot summer afternoon but especially to the adults – to them this was a life-changing and existence-defining moment. Time stood still for most of the US that day. I, we, were in New Hampshire spending the summer on our houseboat. We watched it on a black and white TV that had been set up on the dock and every person who was on their boat on that day were all huddled up around the TV for this monumental moment. Scratchy and laden with static, the pictures were hard to see but even harder to fathom – a man, on the moon!! It was almost impossible to digest the significance of the moment.
There has always been idle speculation that the moon landing never really happened; that political pressure and the technological impossibility of the mission forced the US to fake the whole thing. For years almost every single person I knew scoffed at the absurdity of the concept, if not indeed every one of them. But through the years, the conspiracy folks have continued to postulate and push their beliefs and there has been some growth in momentum and belief in their theory. And I think that were this proven to be so – that the US faked the whole thing, that it never really happened, that we’ve been lied to for these last 50 years by people we’ve pedestalized and revered such as Neil Armstrong – that the revelation would rock a large majority of people to their core.
Another component of my recent thoughts is the new transparency by the Pentagon on UFO’s, something categorically denied by each and every “official” government source for the last 60 years or so. Just last night I read an article and viewed F-18 cockpit telemetry from a US Navy pilot’s “encounter” in 2004. More and more information is being released, protocols are being established, and “official” agencies are speaking openly (at least more openly) about the subject. Are there aliens out there? Hard to believe there aren’t; out of all the planets in the overwhelming immense universe, it is hard to conceive that we are alone. But have we been “visited”? Do they walk among us? Hah – I certainly don’t know. But were we to find out that the government has not only known of their existence and covered it up – that would seriously shake a lot of belief systems to the core. And were we to learn that not only do they exist, but that they secretly come and go with frequency and are facilitated by our government? Imagine that bombshell. Think of the movie Independence Day: the president is astounded to learn that the US has been studying a live alien and a genuine spacecraft in Area 51 – all had bene kept secret under plausible deniability.
So what’s my point? Do I even have one <chuckle>? That is beyond the endeavor to share some of my perspective with all this? Well – I do have a point, just difficult to express. Basically what has begun to seep into my gray matter is how we humans build entire belief systems on ideas and concepts that may not be real or true – or at least accurate. And the more fundamental that belief, the greater the potential damage to our overall belief system. And that just points out how tenuous what we take to be absolute really can be. What we take to be a tower of granite and oak is really a house of cards. And that can be a scary thought. But consider that security is really a state of mind; a belief. There is no true security other than what we perceive to be so.
Does that mean life is an illusion? That we exist in our own self-created Matrix? A life predicated on misdirection and sleight of hand? No – not at all. Rather, it should help to demonstrate that we have less reason to fear change, to fear those ideas or concepts that seem to threaten us because what we have accepted as absolute truths in our own personal belief systems, the foundation which we chose to build upon, could someday prove to be faulty or worse. But the stability we took from those beliefs still exists. It is a tower of internal strength that we built for ourselves – it is not about the core beliefs that helped us form that strength.
I was shaken to learn I had a previous mom and I was rocked to learn I was adopted; they were fundamental beliefs that were proven to be wrong and inaccurate. But they did not appreciably change me or my core system of beliefs. As I wrote earlier, these are both hard life events that many of us suffer in our life. But they help demonstrate the fact that we humans have the depth and resolve in our internal system of strength that can and does allow us to absorb the revelation that what we take to be a fundamental and core truth is not so.
The recognition that our very foundational beliefs and feelings of security are merely conceptual and self-induced can be, initially, terrifying. But ultimately it is liberating. It harkens back to those profound words spoken by FDR: “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
So let the aliens come (or reveal themselves); let the earth turn out to be flat. I now recognize that my belief system may be built on a fault line and could someday be tested or even crumble. But I understand that and I accept that and I know that even if the foundation cracks and breaks, that my internal strength is freestanding and is self-supporting and will survive it. Noodle all of this dear reader; noodle it several times from several angles. If I’ve done my job, you too will see how you can and will remain strong despite how deeply your core is tested; your sense of security maybe be contrived, but your strength is real and indefatigable.