Gullibility

Doubt is a strainer through which we pour experience. What’s believable, credible, runs through the mesh; what’s not, stays in the basket to be examined and either discarded as ‘true’ or kept in our experience as an exception.

Of course, sometimes an incredible experience, instead of being kept as an exception, makes us decide to open up our strainer, make the mesh bigger, allow more to pass the doubt test.

The thing is, research indicates that many things can affect how refined our doubt process is: mental damage and ageexpectation bias, confirmation bias, and that old standby, prejudice.

But today, I am thinking about the molding of experience itself: illusion, trickery, propaganda, deceit.

Do you like to watch magic shows? I don’t. The technical side of it, fine, but I have no desire to be in the audience. This is because I have a deep horror of being fooled. I don’t trust authority figures, but I don’t put any great stock in conspiracy theorists, either. I trust only my own understanding and experience, and even there, I worry about whether I am engaging in properly organized thinking. So when someone arranges an event that fools my senses and bypasses my doubt filter, perhaps even makes that filter wider, because now I KNOW that the thing in question is possible because of my own experience, how can I defend myself?

I fall for it every time. When I was 30 (old enough to know better), I believed for about twenty-four hours that it was possible to bend spoons–because I saw it, close up and one on one. In my 40s, I fell for the idea that I could feel energy moving in ironstones. I’m not scientifically illiterate, I knew the stones could be magnetic, so I didn’t imagine this force was supernatural, I just… felt it. Now I question myself: did my ‘friends’ manipulate the stones? Was it my own experience, or was it manipulated?

How far have illusions opened the mesh of my doubt? Is what I have experienced in my life simply a figment of a loose sieve? Do I throw out every thought, all my hard-won certainties, because I recognize that (once and always), I can be fooled?

I want to write a thoughtful, face-saving ending here that will make you think that I am now possessed of impenetrable deception shield inside which only true, organic thoughts are possible.

But there is no such thing.

I’m fairly sure.

One Comment

  1. Susan

    But I wonder about hope… can’t it unclog the strainer,
    Can we choose experiences statistically known to be more likely to increase our sense of hope.
    It’s one of the things I liked about working in High Risk Obstetrics. Twenty-four women in various stages of their pregnancy, staying in the hospital because they’d had contractions at 28 weeks or their water broke. Hope electrified the air.

    With age I do feel my sense of hope diminishing. I think it’s because the love of a good man is feeling more and more like a big giant illusion.

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