Worldview knowledge: when you may need it?

in #worldview5 years ago (edited)

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Do you know this disturbing Matrix-like feeling: that the whole reality around us is completely different than it seems?

It's an extremely rare experience. Questioning and rethinking someone's entire worldview is an exhaustive mental work. Our brains evolved on the basis of energy saving principle and try to avoid such an expensive effort at all costs. In addition, changing the world image usually means also changing life goals. It’s almost impossible when you have already invested 10, 20 or 50 years of hard work into accomplishing those goals... In addition, the most popular global worldviews (like Catholicism or liberalism) are non-stop protected by very powerful social institutions. (See more in “How to cooperate?” part of this post).

In these circumstances, our reaction to any painful "clash with reality" is usually some kind of intellectual evasion, cognitive bias or defense mechanism. But sometimes it will not be possible. Below are the examples from my favorite movies with eight situations, when a profound change in our approach to life may be inevitable. Those situations include: adolescence developmental phase, middle-life phase, contact with a religious or ideological organization, big cultural shift, fundamental scientific discovery, the influence of a charismatic person, distant travel or emigration and transformative experience.

If you are experiencing dilemmas similar to those of the main characters in the following eight stories, there is a good chance that you are going through a worldview transition.

Cloudy life stages

In The Ghost World (2001) Enid (Thora Birch) graduates from high school and tries to find a place for herself in the bleak small-town world of adults, full of losers, hypocrites, unfulfilled artists and failed relationships. Developmental psychology recognizes the period of adolescence as a stage when from various cultural offers, we choose our own story for ourselves: about who we are and how we see reality. Despite many hilarious moments, Ghost World is moving picture, because intelligent, resolute Enid does not have much to choose from ...

Thora Birch also played the daughter of the main character in American Beauty (1999), the most-known film about the mid-life crisis. Somewhere between the ages of 40 and 50, we realize that half of our lives are behind us and that we will die. We often think about what we have already accomplished and whether it was worth achieving at all. Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) from American Beauty works at an advertising agency. One day he falls in love with his daughter's friend and tries to start a new life. He abandons the job he hates and the wife who despises him.

Big societal shift

In Suffragette (2015) Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), a meek wife and a washerwoman become a courageous, conscious fighter for women's rights in patriarchal England in 1912. In her case, the complete reversal of life priorities comes from the meeting with the suffragettes, an organization, propagating new ideas.

The stories of the characters from the movie The Big Chill (1983) are completely different. A group of friends from the University of Michigan meets after years at the funeral of one of them, Alex, who has committed suicide. The cast is full of stars of the 1980s like Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, William Hurt. The film describes a generation from the magical 60s: a period of faith in communism, pacifism, love, drugs and living in harmony with nature. Almost all members of the group abandoned these dreams and started to make careers in the field of business, law, and entertainment. They gave in under pressure of cultural changes.

Fundamental scientific discoveries sometimes lead to a radically new way of seeing and assessing reality. For centuries, no new religion or secular ideology has turned our world upside down so dramatically as the theory of evolution. Charles Darwin the movie Creation (2011) played by Paul Bettany is aware of the far-reaching consequences of his work and hesitates to publish it for many years.

Life-changing events

Our worldview often depends on the influence of a single person, extraordinary or very important for us. It can be a father, a friend, a priest, a teacher, a politician. In Twelve Angry Men (1957), eleven of twelve jury members change their initial sentence about the guilt of the accused. Under the weight of the arguments, but above all influenced by the charismatic personality of juror no. 8 (Henry Fonda), they begin to approach the process differently. They discover their own superstitions, notice different points of view.

The Painted Veil (2006) shows to what extent our view of the world and priorities are constrained by the environment. A long journey to China not only saves close to divorce marriage of doctor Walter Fane (Edward Norton) and Kitty Garstin (Naomi Watts). Kitty, accustomed to lavish lifestyle in early 20th century London, in a small Chinese village, reports to work in the hospital, helps her husband fight the cholera epidemic.

In The Grey (2011), after the crash of an airplane in Alaska, John Ottway (Liam Neeson) and several other men flee from a pack of wolves. At the culminating point, the extremely exhausted Ottway begins to pray, asking God for help. Under the influence of traumatic events - disaster, death of his colleagues, grave danger - for a moment he tries to change his world view. 

Read more in:

Ralph Lewis, What actually is a belief? And why is it so hard to change? here

Dan P. McAdams, Psychology of life stories here

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