I have a superpower. But unlike those with superpowers who inhabit the pages of comic books and the screens of movie theaters, my astounding ability is available to everyone.
It's called changing your mind.
I'm sure you've used it -- many times. After all, we change our minds about countless things during the course of our lives. For example, I've changed my mind about my...
Politics (Used to be conservative, now I'm a liberal).
Cars (I've gone from a 57' VW bug to a 2017 VW GTI, with many other makes in between).
Marriage (Got divorced, then remarried).
Profession (Earned a master's in social work, then went into health planning/research).
Eating (Loved meat until I became a vegetarian in 1970).
Residence (Grew up in the country, then lived in cities, now back in the country again).
Religion (Was Catholic for a while as a child, then a believer in an Eastern religion, and now an atheist).
So how is changing your mind a superpower? After all, everybody does this, all the time. True, but since we're so used to changing our minds, it's easy to overlook how marvelous this ability is.
Rocks don't have minds. Nor do stars. Living beings, though, have various sorts of minds. We humans have a powerful one. Other primates, ditto, though to a lesser degree. Plants have some sort of cognizance, but probably not a mind. Computers are very adept at certain tasks, yet so far lack what we would call a "mind."
Thus people are able to learn, adapt, modify our thinking, feeling, intuition, and such.
Because very little of human behavior is controlled by instinct, we have the capacity to transmit knowledge between people and across generations. We can read Plato and understand a great mind that lived thousands of years ago, thereby altering our own.
One of the best things about being able to change our mind is how good it feels, and how freeing it is.
Yesterday I wrote on one of my other blogs about how I struggled to figure out why my DR Field Mower wouldn't start. I changed my mind several times over several days, with a foolish "fried battery" mistake thrown in. But in the end I learned what the problem was, with the aid of a friend who is much more knowledgeable about machines than I am.
I watched him methodically evaluate possible reasons for the mower not starting, with his mind changing about the various possibilities as he went along. This is similar to what a doctor does when arriving at a diagnosis, or a scientist when testing a hypothesis.
If a mind stays stuck, it can't move in a more productive or realistic direction. We have to be willing to give up an idea in order to embrace a better one.
Of course, "better" and "worse" can be difficult to discern in some situations.
When a mower won't start, it's easy to tell which is the better idea. It's the one that, when followed, leads to the mower starting. (In my case, we disabled the neutral switch, which was broken, and the mower started just fine -- so that was a good idea.)
In the examples I gave above about some of the areas in which I've changed my mind during my 70 years of living, most people would agree that in these areas, there aren't objective criteria about which of my mind-changes were better or worse.
Subjectively, though, I can confidently say that my current 2017 VW GTI is a much better car than the 1957 VW bug that I drove in college.
For one thing, the heater works in my GTI, so I don't have to scrape ice from the inside of the windshield while driving along, like I had to at times in college. But if someone is a collector of old cars, a '57 VW bug (or beetle) could be much more attractive to them than the modern car I have now.
Ditto for the other areas.
Though I'm a proud progressive, I'd never say that this is the only valid way of thinking about politics, since conservatives can have equally good reasons for thinking the way they do. And when it comes to marriage, my first wife and I were pleased to be done with each other after 18 years of wedded bliss that eventually turned into non-bliss.
Yet she and I both found other partners with whom we were wonderfully compatible. That's the nature of life: it changes. And as life changes, so does our mind (or, as our mind changes, so does life).
I'm not saying that change is always welcome, or even tolerable.
That isn't what I mean by changing your mind being a superpower. Sure, it is possible to reduce anxiety, fear, suffering, and such by altering one's thoughts and feelings, but I'm not aware of anybody who can remain completely unmoved by severe pain, disappointment, or loss.
What is possible, though, is altering our psyche to embrace a new reality, even though it may be unwelcome. That's a superpower in and of itself -- the ability to say "This is...," no matter what those three dots stand for.
Here's some examples of what I mean.
On this blog I've been writing quite a bit about the legal, financial, and ethical troubles involving the guru of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), Gurinder Singh Dhillon. I was a member of RSSB for 35 years, so I like to use this organization as an example of how religions can be wrong, and do wrong, since I'm so familiar with it.
(If I'd remained a Catholic for 35 years, then became an atheist, likely I'd be using Catholicism as an example of bad religion.)
Fairly frequently commenters on my blog posts about the Dhillon family's alleged criminality will say something like, "Brian, when it turns out that the guru did nothing wrong, you're going to be unable to accept this."
That really isn't true.
Because I'm adept at changing my mind, if the Indian legal system ends up exonerating Gurinder Singh Dhillon, I'll accept that reality with very little trouble. In the same fashion, back in November 2016 it took a few days for me to fully accept that Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States.
But it didn't take long for my mind to adjust to a new reality.
Now I'm hoping Trump will be a one-term president. If that doesn't happen, and he is re-elected, I'll be disappointed. However, I won't deny that this happened. (I do worry, though, that Trump won't be able to accept the reality of a 2020 defeat.)
I'll end by noting that even though I'm used to many varieties of religious craziness after 15 years of regularly writing here on the Church of the Churchless, it still surprises me when a commenter expresses extreme surprise at how I could have changed my mind about the validity of the RSSB teachings after being a member of the organization for such a long time.
Often I'll ask them how many things they have changed their mind about during their lifetime. Have you stuck with the same job, same car, same residence, same friends, same political views? Almost certainly not.
There's something about religion that encourages a rigidity of mind that isn't nearly as evident in other areas of life. Members of some religions, like Mormonism or Scientology, will shun people who leave the religion. Yet if someone changes their mind in a way that leads them to join the religion, that's not only fine, it's marvelous.
For many fundamentalists, mind-changing is a one-way street. It's great if you convert to their religion, yet horrible if you deconvert.
But since just about every religion believes that it, and it alone, is privy to the eternal ultimate truth of the cosmos, this encourages true believers to denigrate anyone who embraces that religion, then chooses to leave it. I guess changing one's mind makes those fundamentalists fearful that their chosen faith really isn't true.
Which, almost certainly, it isn't.
I feel good about having changed my mind to realize this. It's much more pleasurable to accept reality as it is, or at least as it appears, than to cling to a rigid way of thinking that no longer makes sense to me.