I Want to Believe

Man singing on stage
Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

“If I listened long enough to you
I'd find a way to believe that it's all true
Knowing that you lied
Straight-faced while I cried
Still I look to find a reason to believe”
-Tim Hardin

Dave Alvin, formerly of the Blasters, and now heading a band called The Guilty Ones, is coming to town. I love Dave Alvin. He’s a great songwriter and the band is top-notch. The problem is that no matter how much I want to believe things are like they were before the pandemic, they aren’t.

I can’t “believe” my way into risking my health to go see this show.

It is one of the many sad parts of life in this age. 

I would also love to believe that we will make it through environmental collapse, societal collapse, and the collapse of industrial civilization generally. 

But we won’t, no matter how hard I believe. 

People believe things in order to bolster their opinions. There is no shortage of “information” to back up a wide range of beliefs. There is a shortage of the critical thinking skills that are necessary to test your beliefs against reality. 

We can talk our way into believing almost anything but unless you temper that belief with actual facts you’re going to get in trouble. 

The inertia of belief. 

1)    A property of matter by which it remains at rest or in unchanging motion unless acted on by some external force.
2)     A tendency not to move or change.

Our beliefs create a static environment. Once we establish what we believe we just stick by it regardless of any information that contradicts those beliefs. It would take a force beyond anything we have experienced to alter that.

As an example, I have had people tell me, despite my sending them hundreds of pages of research on the dangers of COVID that, “They don’t want any evidence.” They also claim that they are right because a lot of people are agreeing with them. Basically “believing” that if a certain percentage of the population buys into the same fiction that you buy into then all of a sudden you’re right.

I could have “evidence” that cigarettes are not bad for me and the tobacco industry paid research scientists to come up with claims backing that up. Should I then believe that cigarettes are not bad for me?

 The problem with belief:

Right now we are faced with an unprecedented number of threats to our health and our lives and none of those threats really care one way or another what you believe. A runaway wildfire will not stop to ask if you believe in climate change.
COVID will not stop to ask if you believe in the dangers it represents.
As society deteriorates the person who walks into the mall or restaurant where you and your family are shopping or eating will not stop to ask if you believe in gun control.

You would be well advised to take stock of what you believe right now, while there is still time, and start to question if your beliefs are going to get you killed.

Because they just might.

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