“…for it is a habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not fancy.”
Most people, myself included, are so entrenched in their belief systems that they refuse to open themselves up to any alternative reality. We also tend to connect and associate with those who share similar views with us, thereby reinforcing them. Such an entrenchment can be further reinforced by confirmation bias, the tendency to search, interpret and favour information that confirms our beliefs and values. The effects of such a cognitive bias manifest in many forms within our society, for example in the partisan nature of our political landscapes.
“The more people who share our beliefs, the more confident we can be sure they are correct.”
~ Sheldon Solomon
However futile it may be, we must try to question everything. Some of our beliefs emerged long before we developed the psychological independence to derive them for ourselves; our conceptions of money, of relations, of the ‘best’ genre of music, are oftentimes products of our youth and environment, in a space and time not of our choosing. As we grow older and encounter the world we begin to form opinions of our own, however they are just that: our own perceptions of reality from our unique perspective. This does not necessarily make your perceptions any more true than another’s; in fact, there are likely many truths in the same story. All preconceptions therefore require questioning — your particular beliefs about a co-worker, or your perception of individuals from a particular demographic, are true in your world, however this does not make them a concrete reality. Even what one learns in formal education must be questioned — our understanding of physics, biology, and medicine has dramatically changed from 100 years ago, and has largely developed through the daring of individuals who questioned the prevailing accepted beliefs of the times.
In conversation, in study, in understanding yourself and others — in all of life — question everything and never content yourself with any particular answer. Such an outlook on life is necessarily humbling and facilitates growth and understanding.