The road map of life

by Don Hartness

As a prelude to the upcoming conversation, I present a quote from Scott Peck from The Road Less Traveled.

There are two types of people when it comes to truth. The first are those that value truth above all else. No matter how painful, no matter how shocking, no matter how much it rattles their entire view of reality, these people will always be open to truth, willing to do whatever it takes to pursue the light and live by it.

The second type is the complete opposite.  Argument is for winning the battle. Discourse is for belittling your opponent, all while inflating your own sense of self-worth. Facts are only useful if they support one’s world view; otherwise, it can’t be a fact. They are narcissists; human road-mines on the path of life. Ultimately, they are to be avoided, no matter how much truth they present.

Here’s the ironic part. You’ll find Christians, atheists, and every shade in-between in both groups.

I suppose I should include one more group: those that love truth, but aren’t at a place in life where they can accept that truth.  I’m sure some of those I discourse with will put me in this group, just like I do with them. But it is not our place to judge others in regards to the pursuit of truth; only to make sure each of us pursues with every ounce of strength we can muster.

Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life…The more effort we make to appreciate and perceive reality, the larger and more accurate our maps will be.  But many do not want to make this effort. Some stop making it by the end of adolescence.  Their maps are small and sketchy, their views of the world narrow and misleading. By the end of middle age most people have given up the effort. They feel certain that their maps are complete and their Weltanschauung is correct (indeed, even sacrosanct), and they are no longer interested in new information. It is as if they are tired. Only a relative and fortunate few continue until the moment of death exploring the mystery of reality, ever enlarging and refining their understanding of the world and what is true.

But the biggest problem of map-making is not that we have to start from scratch, but that if our maps are to be accurate we have to continually revise them.  The world itself is constantly changing…We are daily bombarded with new information as to the nature of reality. If we are to incorporate this information, we must continually revise our maps, and sometimes when enough new information has accumulated, we must make very major revisions. The process of making revisions, particularly major revisions, is painful, sometimes excruciatingly painful. And herein lies the major source of many of the ills of mankind.

What happens when one has striven long and hard to develop a working view of the world, a seemingly useful, workable map, and then is confronted with new information suggesting that that view is wrong and the map needs to be largely redrawn? The painful effort required seems frightening, almost overwhelming. What we do more often than not, and usually unconsciously, is to ignore the new information. Often this act of ignoring is much more than passive. We may denounce the new information as false, dangerous, heretical, the work of the devil. We may actually crusade against it, and even attempt to manipulate the world so as to make it conform to our view of reality. Rather than try to change the map, an individual may try to destroy the new reality. Sadly, such a person may expend much more energy ultimately in defending an outmoded view of the world than would have been required to revise and correct it in the first place.