A Hiccup in My Worldview

I have to start with a definition, some sort of structure and guidepost to help me explore this with you. This particular definition soothes my wild, untamed spirit these days. “A worldview is a mental model of reality—a comprehensive framework of ideas and attitudes about the world, ourselves, and life.” See, isn’t that soothing? As I read more about worldview, I learned that it is a system of beliefs, of personally customized theories about the world and how it works. Also comforting because to me it implies that it might not remain the same in the midst of change. I am in a bigger-than-life transition in which I notice that the way I think about things is changing! What? How did this happen? I used to believe that someone’s worldview, mine in particular, was actually ingrained, solid, cemented into the very fabric of my being. So, if my worldview is changing, what does that mean for me? Whatever it means, I know that I feel unsettled, uncertain, and at times pretty shook up.

Some of the questions that we grapple with when we’re forming our worldview encourage us to look at our relationship with time, goals, values, and priorities. We are asked questions like:

How do we come to know things? How much certainty can we have about what we know? Is there more to reality than matter and energy? Almost always, there are several questions about the existence of God. Does God exist? What are the characteristics of God? What relationship does God have with the Universe?

Deep things, thoughtful, soulful things are offered/required to design one’s worldview. And once this is accomplished, is it forever? That’s not a question I remember asking. Now, it’s at the center of my thinking, and I’m noticing far more angst than feels comfortable. Perhaps many of you are thinking, “Of course our worldview changes! Any major event, tragedy, even things as commonplace as going off to college, joining the military, getting married and having children are monumental enough to change one’s worldview.” I DO remember having huge awakenings when I went off to college and met vastly different people who had far wider life experiences. I’ve had more losses than I would like to admit, and each one has had a profound effect on me. I know every one of these experiences “changed me.” And yet, I never have been more aware of actually feeling that many of the things I knew to be true are actually not necessarily so.

One example for me is my relationship with time. I used to believe that time was an important organizer of our world. We could use time to create a schedule, meet with others, pattern a goal, and anticipate economic outcomes based on reliable mathematics. Of course, I knew that time had some fluidity, and could change based on unexpected providence or barriers, but in general, time was something to respect and utilize with some reliability. I also believed that giving time to a relationship had lasting meaning. When we generously give time to know someone, as well as be known, we are building a quality connection, dependability, and a relationship that lasts. I’m not sure now if giving time is a strong enough factor to create an enduring relationship. So, I’m in the inquiry about what specifically it is about time that is changing for me.

If I turn to the science of the brain, there are some facts that explain a few things, also related to time. Memory is encoded in different ways, from sensory to short-term to long-term, and this occurs at a rate based on how meaningful we consider the information to be. The hippocampus, a part of the limbic system, is involved in the transfer of information from short-term to long-term memory. This consolidation may take a few months for the information to be encoded into the temporal lobe. Once a memory encodes in the temporal lobe, we will perceive things differently. Ah, this is what people mean when they say, “Just give it time, you’ll feel differently down the road.” Wisdom has to be involved in this process too, as we think and reflect on our experiences, thereby evaluating events from a distance, we see it more clearly, or at least from a different perspective. The other role that time plays here is that our brains are constantly reconstructing how we remember our experiences, and therefore, we never remember things exactly as they transpire. This comes up during family gatherings, when one person relates an event from years ago, and her sister, or mother, or cousin pipes up about remembering it differently even though they were all together at the exact same event. You yourself might even recognize your own version of a story changing over time. You may have obtained new information that directly changes your past perception. You actually construct a new memory.

Recently leaving the city and state in which I spent the vast majority of my adult life, has most assuredly had an impact on how I am perceiving things. The newness of making wonderful friends here in Oregon has been startlingly satisfying and exciting for me. Along the way, I am connecting to my richly seasoned friends in California, and we talk, we laugh, we tell new stories to one another—this too is satisfying, and it brings with it some sadness. As beautiful as our connections are, they are not the same. Change changes us! It changes our relationships, and I am beginning to be clear that it also changes the memories of our love and our life together. This is unsettling to me. I do know that within the mix, we are all growing and allowing the beauty of change to stimulate and tantalize us. It helps to write about it and share it with people who matter to me. May we all be blessed to find change in our lives and watch how it opens us up to wonderful new possibilities.

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