Today I am fifty and I honestly didn't think I was going to make it this far so I hope it's not unacceptably self-indulgent to post an essay.
Frankly, I did not think I'd see thirty. Fifty is a little dizzying. I've been abused, neglected, raped, hit by cars, shot at, homeless, grew up in Florida ffs, endured a longer list of wordier traumas, plus a couple deadly serious health conditions have run at me and almost got me. Things in general are super dark right now, but I was fortunate enough to be able to spend yesterday making myself a festive celebratory cake and I am feeling fifty like a victory lap despite all the stress and unrest.
Possibly only of interest to me and my fellow theory dorks, I still don't have that thing people refer to as "a belief system", despite almost all of my fifty years spent seeking, feeling, reading, thinking, searching for something like a belief system. As a little kid I read everything I could get my little hands on from old religious texts to new age manifestos -- I was a little kid in the 1970s, so those were everywhere -- and I'd completely devoured the "weird and unexplained phenomena" sections of the school and local libraries by age ten. For years I actively tried to catch one religion after another but I appear to have some kind of natural immunity and none of them ever took past the "ok so now I have another question" point.
In college in my mid-20s I took as much philosophy as would fit in my schedule even though it wasn't my major, and while it was legit academically challenging and occasionally gave me that feeling like the Gravitron ride at the fair where you spin until the floor drops out from beneath your feet and then you stick to the wall and giggle with your friends about how weird that looks and feels, it was ultimately a very positive experience. It was this massive banquet of ideas, and I sampled as much as I could before my whole adventure in disabling health conditions took over my life. After that my limits were serious and I couldn't just push them anymore, I had to learn respect. Ultimately I've done a lot of that "take what you can use and leave the rest" behavior that's often recommended in various kinds of 12-step group meetings.
There's almost a straight line from Plato's cave analogy to some bits of standup comedy by the late great Bill Hicks, the common theme being that what humans perceive with our basic five senses is a small sliver of the overall reality in which we are having this human experience, and furthermore that it is possible to expand that perception beyond that limited initial range. Why it is that so many people who consider themselves rational and scientific find this idea so threatening is the fuck beyond me. We can't see radio waves or microbes or into the infrared range but no scientist or rationalist denies all that exists. It shouldn't be so controversial but a lot of people act like science is finished rather than: a) still in its infancy; and b) a constantly ongoing process to help understand a consantly changing context. I can only sort-of guess that the unknown deeply freaks those people out. At fifty, I am still madly passionately deeply in love with entertaining all the questions, and whether they are answerable or not is immaterial to me. It turns out I like to swim around in the open ocean of possibilities.
So through all the thinking and the churching and the rainbow gatherings and the reading so many pages of so many books, especially so many pages of Hegel and Kant holy mother of wordy motherfuckers, none of that ever added up to a belief system. There are so many things for which my best answer is "I don't know...and neither do you." At the half-century mark, probably as close as I get to a belief system is rejecting other belief systems.
It's not like I don't believe anything; it's just very loosey-goosey and unsystematized -- if I were to lay it all out, I could never get it published in academia (or what used to be academia in the World That Was) anywhere besides maybe poetry, lol. (Not dissing poetry, I love it, it may be my favorite language.) There's at least a spoonful of Spinoza in the mashup of what I believe, in the sense that rather than rejecting a concept of divinity/"god"/creative infinite consciousness as not-existing I sort-of find it in everything everywhere allthetime, and I try my best not to anthropomorphize it. There's a sizeable dash of Taoism mixed in too, along with something like the not particularly well articulated old surfer wisdom that the same kinds of skills that make you a good surfer in the physical plane where the ocean moves also make you a good surfer in the metaphysical plane where the consciousness moves.
Practice, practice, practice.
Become confident, never cocky.
Take turns; take nothing else.
You are small and temporary.
Every wave you get to ride is a unique gift, appreciate them all for what they are.
Be kind to other surfers and all the creatures of the sea; beware of the ones who would eat you and be smarter and faster than they are.
Since we are mostly an aged bunch here, lol, I invite you all to share your favorite bits of life-acquired wisdom, along with the stories behind them, if you like. Wishing you all a very happy Tuesday.