No apocalypse, no faith

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Mayan calendarRainy, but no apocalypse thus far on 12/21/12. In all seriousness, this was something we were discussing last night at the dojo. Why are some people legitimately taking this seriously? After all, as the Facebook meme goes, if the Mayans were so good at predicting the future, why didn’t they predict the end of the Mayan civilization?

More important, why is it that people are so willing to believe in anything obviously questionable these days? The answer, I suspect, has a lot to do with faith. Over the past two decades, our faith as a society has been shaken in nearly every institution that we grew up believing in. We’ve accepted that banks are fundamentally insecure (to the point where thousands of people outright lost their retirements), we’ve accepted that political institutions are deeply broken, we’ve broken many of our real life heroes, our religions have transformed to our horror into preaching the things they’re supposed to oppose, and there isn’t much left.

That doesn’t change our neurophysiology, which is believed by some to be wired for faith, for belief, for spirituality. Losing our faith in the things we believed in doesn’t alter our wiring that asks us for something to believe in. So we find stuff. We make up stuff. We clutch to peculiar memes and the calendaring errors of long-dead cultures. We create Internet celebrities and vacuous role models for the slimmest of reasons. These are the symptoms of a shaken spirit in search of anything real to believe in.

In my tradition, there’s a three part saying that helps provide some level of antidote against silliness invading the part of our brain that governs faith. It goes something like this (translation by Stephen K. Hayes):

  • I believe in myself. I am confident. I can accomplish my goals.
  • I believe in what I study. I am disciplined. I am ready to learn and advance.
  • I believe in my teachers. I show respect to all who help me progress.

This mental antidote gives us something to believe in. It’s faith-agnostic too, so whether you’re Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, The Church of the Light, Flying Spaghetti Monster, or no creed at all, it’s compatible with your existing religious beliefs. This three part saying works at giving you something to believe in that’s rooted in reality, in the here and now, in things you can see, touch, and do. Believe in yourself. Find something worthwhile to study and believe in it. Find great teachers and believe in them.

If you leverage the part of your brain that is calling out to you to believe in something and aim it at yourself, your goals, your studies, and your teachers, then not only will your brain not waste time and energy on Internet memes like Mayan calendaring errors, but you’ll get more out of everything you do in life.

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