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GUC: Beliefs should continually change throughout people’s lives

Opinions Column: Macro to Micro

Many of us may have spent the weekend in the company of family. One’s family plays a substantial role in the early shaping of one’s mindset. One’s mindset affects one’s worldview. For example, the way I think about the occurrence of a sunrise and the qualities it displays impacts the way I think about the relationship between the sunrise and my own existence. My understanding of the existence of everything and anything in the universe is directly related to my grasp of my own position and purpose within the world. The language my parents may have used in referring to phenomena in the world will then have influenced the context of how I make sense of my existence. 

As my mental capacities expand, I become responsible in investigating the truth of assumptions I may have grown up with and accepted without question. What I come to believe cannot be based upon the sayings and beliefs of those with whom I share familial relations. Simply, I cannot adopt the beliefs of my parents or grandparents. I cannot approach the concept of belief as that which can be collective or passed on as an inheritance from one generation to the next. My belief must be my conclusion. My conclusion must be the result of individual observation and inquiry. Belief is personal. What is referred to as “communal belief” can only be truly understood as a communal practice of a certain culture. The idea of culture entails engagement with specific rituals or customs due to lineage, historical background or just because “this is the way things have always been done.” Culture, in its essence, is the external manifestation of attachment to a set of principles or ideas grounded in imitative thought. It does not require serious exercise of the intellect or a conviction based in reasoning.

As a human being endowed with qualities that demand satisfactory answers to my questions, I must utilize and engage with the faculties I find within myself. My humanity mandates that I investigate the world around myself. Belief, then, arises from such investigations. Yet, nothing that exists is static. From the macro to the micro, the universe is in a state of constant change. For example, in the span of one day, I can reflect upon the tremendous changes occurring upon the sky above. I can notice the pinkish hue painted onto the canvas of the sky at early dawn and later notice the palette of orange, gold and red at sunset. At night, the world seems transformed and completely different as darkness envelops all surroundings with only the guiding light of the moon and the bright shines of scattered stars. The dynamic nature of simply the sky — what is happening to the sky — is evident to any sincere observer. It is not only the ever-changing aspect of the sky that intrigues me. There additionally exists an apparent relationship between myself and the sky as each time of the day, and the colors that come along with it spur within me different emotions and feelings. Anything that exists invokes in me a particular state. Everything in existence is interconnected with my own existence. 

How I respond and understand all that is happening around me and the meanings they carry in relation to my being defines my worldview. I can choose to respond back in a fashion that strips meaning from everything’s existence and reduces them to their material side. Or I can choose to carefully examine and question the reason behind the interconnected state of reality. My belief is my response. If all is in a state of change, each moment is a new event, and each new event requires from me a new response. When I find myself in a state of hunger, I eat. But, my hunger returns in a few hours. And so, it requires another response in which I may decide to eat again. My physical needs are clearly in need of a constant, new response. Similarly, my interactions with all that is continually coming into existence too requires new, fresh observations and conclusions. 

If the world around me is dynamic, and if my existence is dynamic, my belief must also be dynamic. I cannot decide that I believe in something at age 22 and be content with it for the rest of my life. My questions change. My existence changes. All that I observe around me is changing. And so, my belief — what I claim as my belief — must constantly be individually and personally affirmed anew. The journey of concluding upon a belief does not and cannot ever end. 

Aysenur Guc is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in philosophy. Her column, "Macro to Micro," runs on alternate Mondays.


*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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