The opinions we wear

In the old days we didn’t have so much information at hand. It was easier to have an opinion that was not necessarily supported by facts. It was the opinion we wanted to have, or rather the one we needed to have at the time.  Now, with everything there is to know in our cell phone, one would think that our opinions would be more informed. But opinions are not facts. We still have the same need to have a specific opinion at a specific stage. And if it doesn’t align with the facts, we will will look for other facts to support it.

If only there were a dogma to believe in. Everything is contradictory, everything is tangential; there are no certainties anywhere. Everything can be interpreted one way and then again interpreted in the opposite sense. The whole of world history can be explained as development and progress and can also be seen as nothing but decadence and meaninglessness. Isn’t there any truth? Is there no real and valid doctrine?” Joseph Knecht said to his Music Master
“there is truth, my boy. But the doctrine you desire, absolute perfect dogma that alone provides wisdom, does not exist. Nor should you long for a perfect doctrine, my friend rather, you should long for perfection in yourself. The deity is within you, not in ideas and books. Truth is lived not taught
Hermann Hesse, The glass bead game

Opinions are like clothes, the clothes of the ego. We wear them, they provide us with an identity. If we are not careful, we end up identifying with them. We become our opinions. And then, of course, we cannot renounce them, as this would mean the dissolution of our selves. We protect them as if we were defending our very core, the very essence of our nature. It matters not that they are right or wrong. They are us. They cannot die. They must be true or the construct that we have become will fall.

By becoming our opinions, we have excluded the possibilities that do not align with our beliefs. We build ramparts to ‘protect’ us, to defend ourselves from the opinions of others, which, by being different, are in themselves a threat to our own ideas. We close ourselves to other possibilities, to the world in general.

But of course, we are not our opinions. It doesn’t matter that they are right or wrong. They are just clothes that separate us from others. They do not contribute to building our identity, they just disguise who we are.

It is not possible to accept others and the world we live in if we defend from it. After I entered the second half of my life, I realised I had so much unlearning to do. With all the honesty I was capable of, I started pealing the onion. I questioned each layer of opinion about who I was, what the world was, about others. A quest towards the centre, towards nakedness. Dropping one’s opinions produces a strange feeling. On one hand, I was surprised. I wondered how I had been so stubborn to wear those ‘clothes’ for so long when it was so evident that they were half-wrong at best. On the other hand, of course, fear. Fear of disappearing, of ceasing to exist as the individual I thought I was, my identity no longer defined by my opinions.

I slowly opened to other possibilities. To the vertigo of not knowing, of not having certainties. It is scary, but also liberating. I didn’t realise how much my own opinions had compressed me until I stripped myself of them. Well, at least partially.

But more than Vasudeva could teach him, he was taught by the river. Incessantly, he learned from it. Most of all, he learned from it to listen, to pay close attention with a quiet heart,
with a waiting, opened soul, without passion, without a wish, without judgement, without an opinion.

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

I now see my opinions as transient stages, as steps on a ladder that dissolve as soon as I lift my foot to take another step. Who knows, maybe I will soon disagree with the words in this post…