OPINIONS IN TIMES OF TROUBLE

Protesters

There is a lot happening in the world right now: terrorist attacks and mass shootings, major elections and economic moves. There is a lot in the public eye at the moment, much of it troubling. And right now, everyday citizens are not only clinging to their opinions, but flinging them about for all to see.

It is quite natural to take stock of one’s personal beliefs when values and morals are being discussed on the public stage. It is important to have a good sense of where you stand, lest you get swept away with popular or tempting notions. Moreover, taking refuge in one’s beliefs can be comforting and strengthening when it seems the world has gone mad. The world doesn’t seem so big and overwhelming if you have a sense as to where you fit into it. In these respects, on the individual level, opinions are beneficial in providing a strong sense of self.

Opinions on politics, economics and personal finance, or religion can become more than opinions, but totems and integral elements of identity. This is where the flinging comes into play. The strong sense of individualism in Western culture makes identity building especially important. Our opinions are chief components of our identity. And of course identity is not only for oneself, but for others to have some understanding of you; however simplistic or shallow this understanding may be. While identity helps to distinguish and set one apart, it also helps one find community. Identity, at least the portion we choose to make visible, helps others identify with us and vise versa. Helping us form tight knit communities of like-minded people to again carve out our place in the world, providing comfort.

Some opinions are especially powerful such as spiritual beliefs or notions of life purpose. No matter what one believes in, God, science, divine order, chaos, free will, fate: any stance on this topic has the ability to transform from a mere thought or opinion to become part of a person. They are of a personal nature and deeply rooted, ergo they are very difficult to change. But in times of upheaval and unrest such as these, people hold onto their beliefs so strongly that they begin to thrust their beliefs outward at others just as strongly. And so it seems opinions come out of the woodwork in these crazy times. As annoying as this can be there are personal benefits that come with this flood of opinions. People are simply trying to create their ideal world. And in troubling times that’s the best any of us can do.

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