Idealism, Diplomacy and and the Pale, Blue Dot

Idealism, Diplomacy and and the Pale, Blue Dot March 2, 2015
Image by Kaleesha Williams
Image by Kaleesha Williams

by Kaleesha Williams cross posted from her blog The Lost (and Found) Mind of Kaleesha Williams

Editor’s note: A fitting piece for the days following the death of Leonard Nimoy…LLAP

Today at lunch I overheard my six year old directing one of the older children in the making of her PB&J sandwich. “Not like that. I want it the way it’s supposed to be.”

At six years old, Little already has ideas about the way things are supposed be. Are all children like this or just mine? I don’t know. I suspect it’s more common than not. In my home, all nine of us, right down to four year old Justin, have perfectionist streaks. Natural born idealists. Though the older we are, the more set in our ways and certain we seem to be.

Hearing Little say this got me thinking that so many of the problems humanity faces stem from, “I want it the way it’s supposed to be.” I’m not sure I’ve ever had a conversation with another person who didn’t have some sort of conviction, who wasn’t absolutely sure about something. How hard do we argue and how vehemently do we fight for what we believe is The Correct Way?

I spent my life certain that God existed and, as diplomatic as I tried to be, I stood quite firmly on what I believed was right, based on what God said was right, even to the detriment of some lovely friendships. On the occasion that new “truth” did get through, I was not one to deny it. I grabbed hold and made it my own, defending it just as adamantly as I might have rejected it before. (Luckily, I wasn’t big on evangelism, or there’d have been no living near me.)

And then in a matter of months my world was shaken, stirred, and sifted through a sieve of reason. Everythingwas subject to evaluation and 85.6%, give or take, of what I thought I knew had changed. Within a year I was standing on the other side of many a fence, arguing against what I had previously promoted and defending what I’d stood against: religion was now a huge problem, not a solution; vaccinations are a wise choice and not the risk they were proposed to be; sexual orientation is an individual’s right, deserving no shame; marriage has no intrinsic value and is whatever we want to make of it; abortions are an excellent choice for those who’ve made mistakes and don’t want to raise children or who don’t wish to add to the rampant population, and so forth.

There is nothing quite like this sort of experience to make one think and tread carefully when tempted to declare The Way Things Are Supposed To Be. Yes, I still have opinions. Strong ones. But I hold them tentatively, I promise. These days I have more rigorous analysis systems in place in me ol’ noggin, and am a stickler about evidence. I’m quicker to question everything and slower to accept things.

It’s not just about making decisions regarding what I want to believe and it’s not just about you deciding what you will believe. It’s never that simple because we all tend to think that what’s good for us is also good for everyone else, to varying degrees. Thus we have, for example, Christians proselytizing among the heathen and the unbelievers standing their ground against an infiltration of religion–in schools, in courtrooms, in local businesses, and sometimes in our own homes.

(Incidentally, the bias there is purposeful. Once upon a time I believed my faith was under active attack from unbelievers and that, as a Christian, I was having to defend my faith. Having held both views, I now tend to think unbelievers are the ones in a defensive position. Ask any unbeliever and they will tell you they would very much rather mind their own business, but the faithful are undoubtedly “called” to preach to the lost and win souls.)

And so we stand and shout over the fence, “No! You’re wrong! Don’t push your beliefs on me!” and sometimes we throw things. Sometimes we hurt people. Often we hurt ourselves.

Now, what do I teach my six year old, who thinks her way is the only right way to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Or my fifteen year old who is quick to form immovable and sometimes hostile opinions on everything from food and music to people? How do I still my own mind when it rages against perceived attack willing ignorance?

Still working on all that. But often it helps to find the zoom button and zoom your brain waaaaay out to, say, our local group of galaxies, until our own Milky Way is just a wee blur among many.

Now slowly work back in. Past galaxy after galaxy, each glowing with the light of billions and billions of stars around which orbit countless planets; past our nearest neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, 2.5 million light years away. Now hone in on the Milky Way, with its estimated 200 to 400 billion stars and countless more planets. Where’s our sun, that big, life-sustaining orb our many ancestors worshipped? Closer… closer… oh, there it is!

Through all… that… empty… space… our Solar System; dotted with a few “meager” planets, some dwarfing our insignificant Earth by eleven times. Speaking of Earth, do you see it yet? That pale, blue dot?

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” — Carl Sagan

I’m afraid I don’t have the answers, but I do find that perspective helps with the diplomacy necessary for us all to get along on this incredible rock. With what we humans have in common, considering the vastness of the universe, maybe our differences of opinion don’t deserve quite so much attention.

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Did you know that Kaleesha has written a book? – Free To Be by Kaleesha Williams is available at Amazon in Kindle or paperback versions and can also be ordered through her website!

Read everything by Kaleesha Williams

Kaleesha Williams accomplishes her musing, writing, and goat-wrangling
in rural southeastern Missouri–that is, when she has time between
homeschooling and adoring her seven children, gardening, making goat
milk soap, planning projects with Denny, and trying to get her
sourdough English muffins to cook up properly.

Kaleesha has been blogging for over ten years and has written for
various farming and astronomy magazines.  You can check out her newest
book, “Free to Be:  How I Went From Unhappily Married Conservative
Bible Believer to Happily Divorced Atheistic Humanist In One Year and
Several Complicated Steps” at her website, www.kaleeshawilliams.com.
You can also keep up with her on Facebook.

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