A Belief System Redefined

The definition of “believe” is to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something. However, we all construct a personal belief system that results in rules or laws about how the world operates. These tenets are irrefutable and all situations throughout life are subject to obey them. We do this to stream line all the information coming in moment by moment. But occasionally they are not only refuted but shown to be complete illusions. Each of us have examples: a fondling priest or unattended toddlers who die in a house fire. The reckoning is emotionally brutal.

I bring this up for a few reasons, or questions really.

There is something called cognitive dissonance . It’s the ability to hold two opposing views in the mind at the same time. It’s often claimed to be the basis for superior thought. People who are good at debate are skilled at it and Oscar Wilde’s famously stated that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” My question is, does cognitive dissonance result in a person who is emotionally cold? This ability makes the individual consider the inhuman side of existence. Mental survival must adjust and to do that the emotional center must be minimized. At least I think it does?

My next question is why do we purposefully try to make the world black and white? It is solely for the efficiency of dealing with all the stimulus we encounter so we play the odds and create these mostly correct rules? My sense is that these tenets are good to have and only a few are ever compromised. But I mostly feel like we unnecessarily pick a side and stick with it out of loyalty or stubbornness. I’m not sure, maybe it’s laziness.

And my final question is where does art reside in this equation? It’s the ultimate eye of the beholder example and there is rarely a side to take because it’s boundless in interpretation. For instance, yesterday was Happy Bloom’s Day. June 16th is the day that James Joyce chose as the day Leopold Bloom traverses Dublin in Ulysses . This book is considered the literary masterpiece of the 20th century. The writing style, the narratives, and the musings are complicated and challenging. Reflecting on it with others is both a joy and a humbling experience. I personally like The Dead better, but that is more a function of my time committed to it over Ulysses. But back to the contemplation aspect of this entry. There is a constant tug of war over education and business. Wes Davis wrote up a great Op-Ed piece today in the NY Times about AT&T in the 1950s. The writing titled The ‘Learning Knights’ of Bell Telephone is about their leadership’s concern about a lack of people capable of guiding the company rather than responding to crises. Most people can follow directions and answers questions on a form, but few arrange the program in the first place and understand the why as much as the how. AT&T solved the issue by creating a 10 month educational program at the University of Pennsylvania that focused on the liberal arts. The students had to read classics, go to art museums, and review architecture. They received lecturers from prominent thought leaders as well.

Ultimately, the project failed AT&T. The reason is the employees humanistic growth was so great that they were not interested in a devotion to progressing AT&T. They wanted to spend time with their families, read literature, and listen to music. Their belief system was redefined.

Now that is an example of cognitive dissonance.


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