The Earth is the center of the Universe (and it's also flat). Morphine is good for teething. California is an island.
We laugh at these old, disproven theories and shake our heads at the fact that so many people used to believe them. But do you ever wonder what beliefs we hold today, in every day life, that could be completely wrong? Because without a doubt, they are there.
In our age of technology - or perhaps in any age - we tend to think that we have "arrived." Yet our culture is still full of philosophical and scientific maxims that, since we have long held them true, narrow our worldview where we think they add wisdom. We come to accept certain beliefs without question because it is impossible to question everything we are told or taught. Some things we hold true because they make sense, or because of the person or source telling us, or because we learned them when we were too young to be cynical yet. The danger in that? They come to shape our worldview and influence our decisions in ways we might not even realize.
There are certain beliefs that eventually people collectively catch up with, and there is concrete change. For instance, the notion that women weren't fit for "men's work" and were better suited for baby rearing and housekeeping were eventually challenged. These beliefs were held true for so long because they were rooted in some truth - yes, women are the only gender capable of bearing children and breastfeeding, so naturally people have come to view them as nurturers. However, the entire feminist movement was a push for people - men and women - to think outside of the box. Stop assigning roles. Stop limiting human potential.
That is the importance of taking stock of your beliefs, even the seemingly insignificant ones, and thinking about why you hold onto them. Allow yourself to change, be proven wrong, and discover better, more plausible "truths" as you test and retest the theories by which you live. Only then can we stretch ourselves and push humanity toward higher being.
It's about dissecting how you think. If you are able to dig to the roots of WHY you think a certain way, you will be able to discern if that belief is something worth keeping. Society continues to do this, and we are better for it, even when things get a bit gnarly. Of course, on a collective level, changing certain ideas never happens quickly.
Even outside of a social-political scope, our false beliefs permeate every day life. The food we choose to eat or not eat (who told us juicing was a good idea? Or cleanse diets?) The judgements we make when we look at social media posts (i.e. how we measure other people's happiness next to ours). The labels we put on other people that cause us to dismiss them (see side note).
Here's my challenge to you: take a moment every day and boil one of your thoughts down to the bones. See if you can't disprove yourself before you clutch onto that belief. Remember, always, that reality is multi-faceted, and our perspective is limited to the era we live in, our surroundings, upbringing, education, and so much more. This is the Human Way. Our worldview is sadly myopic. Swallowed in the vastness of our universe; limited to our small, contained bodies. And we are continuously trying to reason with it and make sense of what we see. Treat your every truth like a hypothesis.
Here are a few beliefs I think society should be questioning:
Katherine Russell is an author, poet, activist, and freelancer from Buffalo, NY.