What do you believe in?
Many of the things we believe are not things we came up with independently.
Rather, they are things that were taught or instilled in us. For good or for ill.
An important question we all should ask ourselves relates to our inner most beliefs.
What is it that we actually believe in? And why do we believe in those things?
This is a critical question to ask in an era of rampant intellectual tribalism.
Politics is avowedly partisan, with people yelling across each other, never listening.
Religion is considered private, spiritual beliefs rarely discussed.
Matters of ethics and morality are kept hidden, or are even absent from most people's thought processes.
One of the most important things we can do with our limited time on this planet is to come out with our own independent set of guiding principles and beliefs -- constructed entirely from scratch.
This is an exercise in critical thinking, imagination, and ethical decision making: three things we all should be doing more of in our daily lives.
Thus, the exercise of coming up with guiding principles is a very important one.
In addition to guiding principles, I believe it is also important to draft a manifesto. A manifesto is a larger exposition about guiding principles, but it also discusses a vision for how the world should be.
Manifestos have changed the world. The Communist Manifesto is a well known examples, but there are dozens of others from the world of art, science and politics.
The Russell-Einstein Manifesto is one of my favorite manifestos. That manifesto raises several points that remain ever so timely:
We are speaking on this occasion, not as members of this or that nation, continent, or creed, but as human beings, members of the species Man, whose continued existence is in doubt. The world is full of conflicts; and, overshadowing all minor conflicts, the titanic struggle between Communism and anti-Communism.
Almost everybody who is politically conscious has strong feelings about one or more of these issues; but we want you, if you can, to set aside such feelings and consider yourselves only as members of a biological species which has had a remarkable history, and whose disappearance none of us can desire.
We shall try to say no single word which should appeal to one group rather than to another. All, equally, are in peril, and, if the peril is understood, there is hope that they may collectively avert it.
We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties.
At my legal non-profit, Just Atonement, we have just published our short manifesto regarding the defense of democratic values. Take a look at it if you have time.
What do you believe in? What do you see as the most urgent question of our era? Write it down. Express it. Show it to others. Manifest it.