Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
During my childhood, I was very malleable. Someone could tell me anything, and I would believe it wholeheartedly. This state of mind, of course, was not abnormal for my age – most children are susceptible to lies, which is why society has a responsibility to teach them properly. However, I also grew up alongside the Internet, where ideas of all caliber spread and mutate like bacterial cultures. Every computer and every mobile device that I used served as a vector for the ideas to enter my mind, and my mental “immune system” was still too weak to distinguish realistic information from nonsense.
In this vulnerable state, I discovered a video titled “Spirit Science 6 ~ The Flower of Life”. Therein, a blue patchwork animated character described the titular “Flower of Life”, a geometrical pattern created by drawing circles centered at the intersections of other circles, as well as the symbols this pattern could construct (including 2-D representations of all 5 Platonic solids). This subject would be fine alone, but the video also claimed that the Platonic solids had elemental powers and that the Flower was the universe’s progenitor. In short, it combined mathematics – my personal favorite subject – with mysticism.
Soon after watching this video, I binge-watched the others in its series, drawing myself ever further into the world of Spirit Science. The character explained, among other details, that well-being was based on the state of “chakras” within the body; that humans possessed psychic abilities; and that we once lived as enlightened beings on the lost continent of Lemuria before emotionless Martians imprisoned us in our current reality.
Though I no longer believe these things, my faith in these videos from the Internet had substantial impact on my life at the time. I took a field trip to Morefield Mine in the 4th grade because I believed that the crystals there would align my chakras. For the same reason, I purchased an overpriced Kyanite necklace (said to balance all chakras at once) from a local jeweler. I also tried to communicate telepathically with my cat, to its annoyance.
I mainly believed because I liked the fantastical element of the videos. The view of reality they presented seemed far more beautiful than reality itself. But more importantly, I saw little harm in believing. The videos were unrealistic, but they weren’t hateful, and they told me I was “free to believe or reject” what they told me. I didn’t think my incautiousness was dangerous. But then I discovered online conspiracy theories.
These theories told their own narrative – a hopeless, terrifying narrative wherein indomitable enemies plotted the destruction of everything I cared about. Because I read them from multiple sources, they often contradicted one another; some stated that the evil forces were human in nature, while others claimed they were the Martians described by Spirit Science. Since I was new to critical thinking, I never fully discounted them as “possibilities”, instead worrying about them constantly and hating myself for not “doing something.” I couldn’t live like this – it would destroy my mind.
So I made a decision to protect my own mind. Certainly, the videos and conspiracy theories could be correct, but I had no evidence besides Internet videos to prove them either way, and believing them all was hurting me. Therefore, I decided, it would be better to assume these ideas false if they weren’t defensible in some way, rather than to assume them correct immediately. Whatever I believed had to hold up to scrutiny, or it wasn’t worth believing.
I no longer believe in Spirit Science or conspiracy theories. I respect those who do, and I try to consider some of their ideas carefully, but I will never subscribe fully to any one worldview ever again. All ideas, even if deeply held, should be questioned – that’s how one grows.