Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Personal Revolution Creates Path to Progress

Personal Revolution Creates
Path to Progress

I thought you might appreciate this little bit of wisdom and advice to speed you on your daily way. It takes a day-to-day personal revolution to make any kind of social progress.

If someone says that they think they know everything, it's a sure sign that they probably know nothing.

From a recent interview with a Jesuit astronomer (LeMoyne College magazine):

Do you think there is hope that we can reconcile this perceived divide between science and religion?

There is hope; there’s always hope. And some of it comes from education. Although education is not the solution to everything, everything depends on education. Some of it will just come from people growing up and being more used to the idea. There has been a generational divide. I think scientists of the generation ahead of me were much more reluctant to talk about their religious beliefs in public. That’s not true anymore, certainly not in astronomy and physics. And there’s no longer the sense that if you’re a religious person you’re somehow less of a scientist. You still see that in the older scientists… but you don’t see it in the young people coming up anymore. And that culture has changed in the sciences. I don’t see any reason why that culture couldn’t change in religion as well.

Will there always be new scientific discoveries?

I hope so. My father had a wonderful thing he taught me as a kid: Knowledge is like a circle. The more you know, the bigger the circle. But the circumference of the circle is the things that you know you don’t know. And the bigger the circle gets, the bigger the circumference gets. So the more you know, the more you realize there’s still to be learned. And if you think you know everything, it means you know nothing.

Keeping Our Minds Supple
Questioning Everything

A lot of people feel threatened if they feel they are being asked to question their cherished beliefs or their perception of reality. Yet questioning is what keeps our minds supple and strong. Simply settling on one way of seeing things and refusing to be open to other possibilities makes the mind rigid and generally creates a restrictive and uncomfortable atmosphere. We all know someone who refuses to budge on one or more issues, and we may have our own sacred cows that could use a little prodding. Being open-minded means that we are willing to question everything, including those things we take for granted.

A willingness to question everything, even things we are sure we are right about, can shake us out of complacency and reinvigorate our minds, opening us up to understanding people and perspectives that were alien to us before. This alone is good reason to remain inquisitive, no matter how much experience we have or how old we get. In the Zen tradition, this willingness to question is known as beginner's mind, and it has a way of generating possibilities we couldn't have seen from the point of view of knowing something with certainty. The willingness to question everything doesn't necessarily mean we don't believe in anything at all, and it doesn't mean we have to question every single thing in the world every minute of the day. It just means that we are humble enough to acknowledge how little we actually know about the mysterious universe we call home.

Nearly every revolutionary change in the history of human progress came about because someone questioned some time-honored belief or tradition and in doing so revealed a new truth, a new way of doing things, or a new standard for ethical and moral behavior. Just so, a commitment to staying open and inquisitive in our own individual lives can lead us to new personal revolutions and truths, truths that we will hopefully, for the sake of our growth, remain open to questioning.

- From the Daily Om