Let’s remind ourselves of something we occasionally forget. It’s obvious that the ground on which we stand is not moving. It it were, our sense of safety and security would disappear. We’d be clinging on for dear life, to whatever we could grab hold of, in a disorienting mayhem of scary motion. We aren’t, however, so all must be well. It’s also obvious that the sun rises from below the eastern horizon, travels slowly across our motionless world, and falls below the western horizon for a well earned rest. This is as clear as daylight itself, to anyone with eyes in their head and a brain in their skull. People who, for countless aeons of time, saw things this way, weren’t idiots. They’ve included the very brightest of the bunch. It was all so very obvious, but it was all so totally untrue.
The ground on which you and I stand, is moving at anything up to 1,000 mph as the earth revolves on its axis. It’s also moving in a different direction at around 67,000 mph, as the earth travels round the sun. It’s simultaneously moving in a third direction at around 500,000 mph, as we orbit the centre of our galaxy. It’s also moving in a fourth direction as our galaxy travels at around 1,300,000 mph, through the rest of the universe. If this is true of the ground on which we stand, it’s also true of you and me. We feel safe and secure and well balanced, in our orderly and well-behaved world, and yet we’re all moving in very different directions, at very different speeds, all at the same time, and blissfully unaware of being participants in this hurtling maelstrom of multifarious movement. Einstein, of Relativity fame has, of course, explained to us why we don’t feel dizzy.
It does seem to me, however, that there’s a lesson we need to learn from this. Far too often, we regard our habitual beliefs as established facts. It’s obvious to us that they are. We can provide a list of ‘facts’ and reasons to support them. Anyone who thinks differently from us is, at best, wrong. At worst, some of us turn them into social misfits deserving victimisation, political plonkers deserving vilification, or religious deviants deserving death today and hell tomorrow.
Well, it’s all so obvious, isn’t it ? No, it is not ! It’s only “obvious” to ourselves, and it could all, whatever if is, be utterly untrue. If only we humans could learn to live with the inescapable reality of uncertainty. Einstein’s successors, for example, are telling us that there’s an “uncertainty principle” built into the bricks of our universe and, so far, that’s standing the test of verification. If only we would see ourselves, and everyone else, as part of an ongoing, unpredictable adventure, in which unexpected paths and unsuspected vistas can suddenly open up in front of us, maybe to our initial disquiet and possible alarm, but subsequent acceptance and even delight.
So, into the dustbin with dogmas and doctrines, and ‘authoritative’ declarations and assertions about this, that and the other. There’s nothing I think or believe or have an opinion about, that’s worth me, or anyone else, dying for – except for the freedom to think, say or write it, not as the last word about anything, but as a further contribution to an vitally important, ever ongoing, open-minded discussion and debate.