“If you have not come up with you beliefs on your own, then they are not really your beliefs”
(Taken from the Critical Thinking course I took this past year)
In Michael Gelb’s How To Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci, the author details the life and methods of the proverbial renaissance man. Stories of the ‘maestro’ are beautifully woven into parables for modern living like a genius.
I enjoy this book. Quite a lot. So much that I have made it a daily habit to read part of a chapter every morning during my morning visit to the bathroom. Yes, that’s right. You may not want to ask to borrow my copy.
The chapter that I am currently on is called ‘Dimostrazione‘. As Gelb describes it, it is a commitment to forming knowledge through the one true vehicle of learning: experience.
‘No one should imitate the manner of another, for he would then deserve to be called the grandson of nature, not her son. Given the abundance of natural forms, it is important to go straight to nature…”
Leonardo Da Vinci
This is really a call to action for myself. For too long I believe my mind has remained dormant and inactive. That it has been focused on trivial and insignificant affairs and I am quite ready to change that.
The real catalyst to this motivation to change has been spending time at home post graduation from undergrad. No longer burdened with an endless procession of academic hoops to jump through, I have been given a little opportunity to reflect on what really matters.
Because there must be something that drives us. There must be something that stops people from getting together and committing mass suicide. Something inside of us yearns for something more.
But I think it’s the ability to distinguish what is truly important to us and what we have been taught to conceive as important that creates happiness in our lives.
I can openly admit that for too long in my life I spent more time looking in the mirror than searching out verifications for my beliefs and engaging in challenging conversations. I spent more time on social media sites, in the hopes of attaining ethereal pleasures, than exposing myself to new ideas and perspectives.
This left me, as I recently realized, with beliefs that aren’t my own but have been given to me and I have accepted as my own.
When asked what is the most important thing that the world needs to focus on developing, the Dalai Lama was quick to answer that critical thinking must become a priority for us. We must challenge ourselves, our beliefs and the information that is given to us.
Critical thinking allows us to discern the good information from the bad, allowing us to make more informed decisions. The more we are able to make informed the decisions, the happier we will be. The happier we will be, the better the entire world will be. Thus, critical thinking makes the world a better place. Got it? Good!
So how can we put this to use?
By remaining an open minded skeptic and asking as many questions as possible.
By reading articles, books, sources of information with the OPPOSITE viewpoint of your own.
I particularly like this one a lot because when you throw your ideas and your beliefs into a pit of fire composed of opposing view points, it comes out charred. It comes out beaten and weak. It may not even be recognizable when you take it out of the pit but what remains, whatever fraction of the original it may be, you can be a little more certain that it is right… for now, at least.
Other solid practices, according to Gelb’s book, are making commitments to learning something through personal experience, as far as possible.
Question how the role of media and advertising have had an impact on the shaping of your beliefs and values. Or ask yourself whether you would maintain you beliefs if you were a different person, in a different time, from a different religion, race or gender.
Putting it to use.
Personally, I have questions regarding the existence of ‘true love’, the meaning of fame and why so many people crave it, myself included, the idea of reincarnation. The only way to get some further understanding is by putting it up to the firing squad that is deliberate and focused questioning.
Now the question remains; which beliefs of yours could use some more questioning.