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Choices and the trouble of the unknown.

As a recovering person working the 12 steps I lean heavily on the ideas in my fellowships meetings. A popular idea, when facing a difficult situation or decision is to “invite God into it.” To invite this spirit or idea into your mind and let it guide you, and to imagine that others are being guided by it, to believe you are all somehow on the same team. It is certainly useful as a psychological device. But one that is dependent on the foundation of the God assumption, or God simulation in ones mind, if you like. So for those of us who are atheistic cannot access this tool in it’s current form. Yet the problem persists. I still need a way to get myself back on my side when fear robs me of my good sense and the present moment is lost to worry over imagined futures.

I know the value of confidence for it is the opposite of fear in it’s effect on me. In many situations fear will rob me of the creative intelligence that allows me to solve problems and see solutions that I would have access to if I felt emotionally solid. When I feel good about myself and feel a sense of stability, I am empowered.  Another might get this from believing, or choosing to believe, they are an agent of an elemental force of good. When I was a believer and used this method, I saw my mind at work on solutions and only the solution. I could do this because I was able to set aside the either-or of a positive constructive solution being possible. It was predetermined, I need only do my part to realize the specifics. I was able to participate in a constructive partnership with my life and it’s events in an intuitive way. This allowed me to set aside things mentally which I could not otherwise set aside were I fighting worry and fear.  Things which I couldn’t effect anyway!

So here I am in recovery, committed to rigorous honesty and the continued practice of staying in touch with the reality I so often sought to escape. I cannot any longer believe in ‘God’, but I still have this problem that the god idea had solved for me before. An easily available balm for the basic terror that things will not work out my way. That a thing I love or value might not come to me, or be taken away once I become accustomed to it. I know the universe as a whole does not care what happens to me, but that does not remove my concern with my own life. Worry still haunts me, fear will often grip my mind and blind me from possibilities that are plain in front of me. It is a known principle of human psychology that we will not look for what we do not believe is there.  And most of the time that is a good thing.

So, upon reflection I know that life and it’s opportunities are not what change. It is me that changes when I let fear take me. If I am busy worrying I am occupied in worry and thus cannot be thinking of a positive solution; I’m busy. I know that paying careful attention and medium-light relaxation are the best condition my mind can be in for open minded and creative problem solving. I know that fear robs me of that. But how do I get out of the fear without believing a thing I cannot know. My creed for some time has been, when emotionally compromised, to run it by the numbers or in simpler words; when I cannot do what feels right, I do what makes sense. 

If effectively finding the best solution requires me to at least assume a positive outcome is possible, then that’s what I must do. I chose to believe humanism is better than any theistic belief system, that it can have access to anything good and useful the believers have but without the contradiction and dogmas. I allow myself to believe this because I committed myself to making it so, even if it isn’t there yet. I suppose I have chosen to believe this state for humanism is possible just to allow myself to work toward making it happen.

So I do this, I say to myself “there is a positive outcome and I will find it.” I do this not because I believe I’m chosen or special or something is watching out for me. I do this because it is the best thing I can do for myself. It gives me the best chance, it gives me something to do, a constructive place to put my mental effort. In returning to a productive place, my emotions realign and I start to move away from fear. I retrieve my mind and emotions from a train of thought that might otherwise be wasted fumbling around imagined futures, letting the present moment be lost. To enforce this I recall what I know about the universe and my place in it: Cosmically, I exist for almost no time, occupying almost no space. It always makes sense to take my life a little less seriously, to enjoy myself where possible and be kind to myself. No one will stop me. This may be the sentiment a speaker I once heard was trying to convey when he said “You are the only one who can separate you from God.” I can choose to treat myself well whenever I want, I just sometimes need a reminder of that truth.

In seeking these reminders I have recently become somewhat enamored with the late speaker and popularizer Alan Watts. His forward thinking perspectives that remain mostly neutral theistically and provide some of, what I consider to be, the right kind of ideas on how we approach the unknown.

This is a video integrating a segment of his talks into a more pleasing format with image and music. I hope you enjoy, it was the inspiration for this weeks article.