Undertake a free, responsible search for truth and meaning

Posted: Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Sarah H. Wilson

Living and Growing

A friend had a poster that stated, "This life is only a test. It is only a test. If it were a real life, you would have been given instructions and told what to do."

Somehow, this belief system appealed to the woman raised in the 1950's with all the bomb drills that existed then. I recognized her need for certainty and for someone or some group to tell her what to do.

However, life is not a test. It is real and there are no absolute instructions. Each of us has a responsibility to make ethical and spiritual decisions based on our individual searches for truth and meaning.

To be sure, many belief systems claim to have all the answers. This certainly makes decisions easier. But the first decision is still an individual one - to select the belief system.

Sophia Fahs, an early 20th century educator, wrote that some beliefs are like walled gardens. They encourage exclusivity and the feeling of privilege. Other beliefs are bonds in a world community and open wide vistas for exploration. We can choose our beliefs and respect that fact that many sources help us in our searches for truth and meaning.

Some beliefs are like shadows, filling us with fears of the unknown. Others are like sunshine, filling us with the potential of wonder. What happens when one sails into the horizon? Can one follow the sun? Where does it go?

Some beliefs are divisive, separating the saved from the unsaved. Others stress the beauty of the world community and the differences that beautify the world.

Some beliefs weaken a person's sense of self and resourcefulness. Others increase self-confidence and self-esteem. Compare the mindsets of:

• You can't do that because you are ... (fill-in the blank.)

• You can do that because you are ... (fill-in the blank.)

If your free and responsible search leads you to accept that one system has all the truth and meaning that will lead to ethical and moral decisions for you, your path may be straight-forward. The certainty associated with acceptance of one belief system is the choice of some in their search.

However, if you determine that many paths may lead to truth, your path may lead to uncertainty and surprises, before you learn the truth. This sense of potential wisdom may spur you to learn more than you had ever imagined.

My belief system is based on the ideas of learning from many sources. Many traditional religions stress the need for wisdom and the fact that wisdom is more important than worldly goods. The beliefs of less formal religions also stress the need for respecting the wisdom that one learns from others.

However you choose, the search for truth and meaning is your responsibility. Whatever you choose, the twists in your path will lead to wonderful surprises as you have your unique personal adventures in this critical step in making your decisions.

The ethical and spiritual decisions of all are based on the wisdom that we acquire in our journeys, whatever the means that we use in our search. My wish is that we may share our journeys together at different times and in different ways.

• Sara H. Wilson is a member of the Juneau Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

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