Believing What I Wanna Believe, But Leaving Room for Everything Else
Tuesday, October 2, 2018 at 12:23PM
UUCVH

Have you ever had the experience of learning something that everyone else already knew? I remember a beloved high school history teacher (he wasn't beloved at the time, but I sure appreciate him now) telling us, "Whenever you see a rule written down, whether it's The Code of Hammurabi or 'Thou Shalt Not Kill' or 'Keep Off the Grass,' you know that someone broke that law the day before."

Common sense, sure, but that was revelatory to me then! Thus today, the anniversary of Tom Petty's death, I think of a bit of universal wisdom that I first encountered in his 1979 song "Refugee" in which he threw away this line:

"You believe what you wanna believe."

That lyric sticks with me, and it resonates in my favorite tidbits of pop culture, such as The Grateful Dead letting us know that "One man gathers what another man spills," Paul Simon telling us that "a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest" and, what the hell, Sir Mix-a-Lot declaring "So they toss it, and leave it, but I pull up quick to retrieve it."

We place value on certain things and perhaps don't see the value in others. Furthermore, we are more inclined to believe certain things without evidence than we are to doubt certain things despite evidence, because we believe what we wanna believe.

Knowing that about myself, and therefore my tendency to look for as many angles as I can before making a decision, probably makes me an insufferable human being now and then. Sorry?

But, being firmly middle-aged, I also have the tendency to Worry About the World a lot more than I once did, and I see perils for my children where I didn't see them for Younger Me. I see the saturation of sinister or thoughtless media choices that threaten to overwhelm the unwary, making our natural inclination to believe what we wanna believe that much more difficult to check and balance.

I'd sure hate to think that my kids grit their teeth when I put on Tom Petty, but I also look forward to their thrill of recognition when they watch "Silence of the Lambs" in a few years and hear "American Girl" sung behind the wheel of a car, just like their dad did. (NB: I'm about a Size 14, too.)

And, as I switch on whatever suite of devices that inform my day, I do so with the knowledge that I believe what I wanna believe because of a lifetime of conditioning, relationships, education, triumphs, and setbacks. Regardless, I still tune in on whatever opposing viewpoint I can find, even if it hurts my eyes.

Article originally appeared on Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills, La Crescenta, CA (http://www.uuverdugo.org/).
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