In a healthy individual and society, worldviews are not final and static, but evolve in response to changes in our environment. In this sense, worldviews are closer to being hypotheses; assumptions about how the world works that we validate or disprove through experience.
Being able to continually test and update our worldview is an indispensable evolutionary skill. An incomplete or out of date worldview is like having an incomplete or out of date map. It is very difficult if not impossible to get to where we want to go, and most likely we’ll end up someplace we do not wish to be.
How do we know when our worldview needs updating? One indication is when we encounter mounting problems that seem unsolvable. Scientists know this dynamic well. A theory elegantly explaining observed data finds acceptance until enough new data accumulates which the theory fails to explain. Once a critical threshold of unexplainable data is gathered, a new theory emerges that incorporates it.
Another, more personal indication that our worldview is incomplete and needs updating is when we encounter a worldview we find threatening.
Let’s go back to the diagram of our “worldview box” inside the larger context of Reality. Only now, rather just our own worldview, we see that that there are multiple worldviews. In reality, there is one worldview for each person on the planet. That would make about 7 billion in total!
What’s essential to understand is that all of these worldviews are “valid” in that they exist within the larger context of Reality; each is a logical outcome of a person’s experience of the world.
Because we all have different experiences, our worldviews frequently do not agree or see things the same way. You probably know someone who has a very different way of looking at the world than you do. Often times we appreciate that diversity. Other times, we are threatened by it or simply reject it as “wrong.”
When we encounter a worldview that we find threatening, we have two choices: we can reject it, and thereby lose an opportunity to expand our own worldview; or we can engage with it and seek to understand the experiences that produced it; thereby expanding our worldview and, consequently, our circle of compassion.
When we seek to understand another’s worldview, they become our workout partner. It’s a workout because we typically identify with our worldview—when it is threatened, we feel threatened. Challenge my worldview, and you challenge my very sense of self.
The shift in thinking that is required is to understand that while we each have a worldview, we are not ourselves the specifics of that worldview. Rather, we are defined by an apparently unique capacity to consciously adapt and expand our worldview as the evidence requires.
In other words, what makes us most human is not our certainty, but our conscious adaptability.
Here’s a fun, short video that speaks to what we are talking about:
Seek out someone whom you know has a worldview different from your own. You might have different ideas about politics, religion, education, etc. Enter into a conversation with the goal of getting your head outside of your box and into their box. Afterward, write down the experience and how you felt about it. Was it uncomfortable? Why? Was the person difficult to listen to? Why? What did you need to do internally to be able to listen? Did the experience change you? How?
Next: Part 5 – Soul-Journ