Sunday, May 27, 2007

Strength of Conviction: Does Understanding HAVE to Versus Creeds?

I remember my high-school years as being, among other things, a time of openness, new explorations and infinite tolerance and curiosity about new things. Everything was open to discussion and questioning; beliefs and creeds were something a bit vague to me. I didn't consider myself racist, sexist, or really any other socially categorical identifying rhetoric, although I was big on questioning the inherent wisdom of experience and authority. I learned about these things through classes and lessons, social relationships and interactions, watching/reading the news, and simply living through the times. These convictions of all-encompassing openness, even to the seemingly most abhorrent of actions, behavior or thought, made me particularly suited to empathize - I truly wanted to understand above all else. My mind was eager to sponge up and contribute to the fascinating, ever-fluctuating world around it.

This perspective continued through my freshman and early sophomore years at college, displayed by my overwhelming and overarching tendency to put my mind in what I sensed to be another person's proverbial shoes. I was often proud of this, defending it to skeptics like my mother as a necessary given to understanding people and getting along with them. In retrospect, I think that even then I knew that much of this urge came from wanting to have friends and make sure they continued to like me. However, although this wasn't quite a bad thing on its own, it also meant that I was putting my own opinions and beliefs aside in favor of trying to grasp those of others. In sophomore year, with the help of interesting social circumstances and lessons, I quickly began reversing this trend.

Today, I am a college graduate, a world traveler (albeit not yet beyond Europe!), a speaker and hearer of tongues (not of language, rather, of confusions), and a young woman full of potential. Cynicism, jadedness, witty banter, reckless actions, foresight, balance, deep disappointments, resistance and hopes have come, gone and changed much about the lens - and eyes - through which I observe. But then, many things have simply become more ingrained or manifested more strongly and noticeably. My convictions have become more pronounced. They have also become more rigid, threatening the openness and willingness to follow-up on all the questions and points-of-view I am inquisitive about. I am still not yet confident in either tendency (open to a fault Vs. convictions with openness on a personal microsocial level). However, I do know that I don't want to "follow the fold", whatever fold that may be, unless I truly believe in it and only a few things fall in that category (i.e. stopping violence against women and children, protecting the envi. and national parks, and certain aspects and degrees of liberty).

And now, the article that sparked the inspiration for this commentary: NYT article on "The Creation Museum", a new natural history museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The museum's concept, as well as the news article, are fasciniating and thought-provoking. Contemplating how and what I feel about the potential validity of this museum endeavor, I began to realize just how closed my mind had become to certain topics and just what I've begun to take as an educational given. I appreciate the opportunity for genuine, quality self-reflection and general analysis/observation. All the good, worthy news pieces spark thought and discussion.

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