Shared Beliefs

“Everything that is not a law of nature is just a shared belief.” – Shane Parrish, The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts

Shared beliefs. Have they ever been as contentious as they are today? People believing the election was rigged, storming the Capital, having their kids burn masks for the optics. Other people thinking those people are delusional and irresponsible. Anger and accusation on both sides. I betray my own beliefs just writing this paragraph. But I know people lash out in strange ways when they perceive a threat to their livelihood.

For all the madness and anger, there are laws of nature that unite us in this world. Scientific principles are pillars of truth in which society anchors itself. Gravity isn’t a shared belief, it’s a proven law any time you drop something or jump in a pool. Gravity is easy to prove because we live with it every day. The tricky part is in what we believe to be true.

The last year has been a year of turning beliefs upside down. Beliefs about the role that certain countries play in the relative stability of the world. About mask-wearing and social gatherings. Personal responsibility and accountability. Equality and fairness. Level playing fields and stacked decks. When beliefs are challenged that friction can erupt into fiery rhetoric. We’ve seen plenty of that, haven’t we?

Shared beliefs can be beneficial if they’re anchored well. We have the responsibility to question that anchorage from time-to-time. Seeking common ground is the stated goal of President Biden, and common ground is the turf of fairness, equality, social responsibility and the laws of nature. The world is slowly tackling the pandemic, inching towards equality, and incrementally embracing the shared values that unite us as fellow humans on a fragile planet. We still have time to get it right.

In writing this blog post I deleted far more words than I kept. I’m hoping to create something more substantial than my own beliefs. Maybe one small step away from the noise. And back to nature.

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