In a series of novels I wrote a few years ago (publication forthcoming) there is a scene that touches on choosing your beliefs.
The story takes place in the ancient Greek world, and was inspired in part by my love of Greek mythology. The hero is a citizen of the island of Rhodes, home of the famous Colossus, one of the wonders of the ancient world.
Artist’s Rendering of the Colossus.
Source: View Master World
In this scene, a town on Rhodes has been sacked by pirates. The hero, Korax, has volunteered to join a naval mission to put down the pirates and try to rescue the townspeople. The prospects for the mission are dicey, to the say the least. Korax is talking to Nicoles, the admiral who leads the fleet. To Nicoles, the gods are a living presence in his world.
Nicocles contemplated the quiet sea. “My friend, I have a wife and two daughters. Each time I go to sea, they fear for my safety. I always tell them they need not worry, that even if I am lost, Rhodes will protect them. And the Rhodians will always be able to protect them, because our island has the special aegis of Divine Helios. I tell them this because I believe it. I believe it because believing anything else leads me to despair. “
If the politics of 2016 have shown me anything, it is that we all choose what we want to believe.
I know a psychotherapist who uses this quote from William James in her email signature: “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
I choose to believe that our lives have a higher purpose we cannot fully grasp and that, despite all of the evil in the world, our species is evolving and becoming better.
I choose to believe this because believing anything else leads me to despair.