Not knowing, conspiracy theories, beliefs and certainty

Category : General advice, Philosophy 7th April 2020

Inside Yoga 299 (7/4/20)

Us humans like to know what is happening, we need to know why and what will happen, we really do not like uncertainty and not knowing, and this is why we are seeing so much chatter on social media and news platforms at present surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, with theories bouncing off the virtual wall of the internet left right and centre, pointing fingers and blaming.

Seeking knowledge is good human quality, as this has undoubtedly helped us advance as a species over the millennia, but there is also a point when some of us need to pause and accept that possibly this time, what is happening is confusing, perplexing and beyond our grasp of understanding. And let it be for now.

In meditation we learn to see that not knowing is actually a good place to be, as it opens the mind and heart to an uncertainty which means we remain open to seeing what is really happening around us. In the same way that our animal instincts make us alert to danger in the fight or flight mode of survival, this lack of knowing helps us to watch and be ready. It is fine to observe and make decisions based on what we see, but what I am criticising is the need to find out a finite and definite answer to something as complex as the current pandemic.

But this is not an easy state of mind to rest in, and this is why we see so many questions and the need to really know, to find out the truth, whatever this might be. This is how religious beliefs sustain themselves, with the people unable to grasp and understand the nature of their existence, seek explanation via the platform of a god or gods, giving responsibility to the god or gods for everything that is beyond their understanding, with the representatives, such as priests offering an explanation where possible. It has kept us going for millennia.

Until now: today we have the god and gods of the internet spewing forth whatever theory and thought they might have, and it is being lapped up by people hungry for answers. This feeding frenzy manifests in its worst from with the anger of many who just want to blame, in the case of the virus, the governments, the police, the very rich, the companies, the people, and eventually even the pets might get the blame.

Projecting our need to know onto someone or something else is not new; but our social media platforms are new. Looking at traditional religion as a comparison, if the god or gods were actually presented to the people, as real and standing right in front of them, the people will most likely deny them and push them away as being false and charlatans. The imagination is a far better tool than reality. In a similar way, even when presented with what is regarded as facts, for example, regarding the coronavirus, some people will reject them, and some will shout out conspiracy. Knowledge is a threat especially if the person is comfortable in their (fixed) beliefs.

This is why I mention the meditation practice of not knowing. It is fine not to know, and is good to be aware that some things just don’t make sense, and it is also fine to keep asking and listening, as described above, not knowing leaves us open to hearing and listening what is really going on.

A meditation for today: sit and listen to what thoughts arise. Thoughts will vary, in the course of a few minutes they might change from anxious to happy, angry to upset, calm to excited: whatever arises simply watch observe and drop the thought by focussing on the breathing. See how through practice and perseverance we become more calm and content. Notice how we can dismiss so many thoughts as not needed for our well-being. Enjoy the silence. For now.

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[…] also says a lot about how we approach our lives. We do like certainty (see blog ) and predictability even if we say we don’t, and that we want adventure and excitement. We like […]

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