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Worldview Matters Essay:  We are the Choices We Make

Using Choices We Make Cards to Promote Dialogue and Shape Our Future

The words on the card tuck box capture your attention:

     Choices We Make

     It’s just a humble card deck

      but it can burst bubbles,

      change minds, and just perhaps…

     Can Change the World

You know the cards contain what are called worldview themes.  You pull them out and soon encounter one that’s relevant to those words on the box.  It’s the King of Diamonds, with the “Open Mind, Global Vision” theme on one side, and “Narrow Minded Focus” on the other.  Seems that if you’re determinedly narrow-minded these cards aren’t for you! But wait, how many people fit into that category? Don’t most of us claim to be open-minded?  Perhaps…but there’s no denying many of us live in a bubble, surrounded by like minded people, and seldom have real conversations with those “other” folks to understand what’s behind their beliefs and values. For that matter, how many of us really appreciate what’s behind our own beliefs, values, and behavior? Perhaps the starting point for many of us who are dissatisfied with either our lives—and the contents of our minds—or the world we live in—and choices “we” have collectively made—is internal dialogue. Engaging in such thinking / soul searching can be guided by these fifty two cards.  

The next card you find is the Queen of Diamonds, with “Humbly Unsure” on one side, and “I Know What’s Best for You” on the other. You chuckle upon reading that latter theme title and recall how many times your parents said that to you. That thought is followed by the suspicion that many people never really move beyond  their parents’ or respected elders beliefs  and values.  Consider the following story.

Every year church elders send thousands of young people overseas on  “missions” with an aim of winning “converts”.  Such “evangelizing” has a long history. Christian missionary efforts to convert indigenous people accompanied the discovery, exploration, and colonization of the New World. The late 18th and early 19th century missions established by Spanish Padres (like Junipero Serra) throughout California attest to this.  To some extent these evangelists, as they interact with the targets of their missions, are convinced “I Know What’s Best for You!”  As they see it, the message of Jesus Christ they bring to those ignorant of it can be the salvation of those who embrace it. But history also records that such contact brought a staggering death toll to New World tribes who lacked immunity to Old World germs, Thus in 2015, Columbian authorities, seeking to protect long isolated Amazonian tribes, both from germs and disruption of their unique lifestyles, intercepted two American evangelical missionaries.

Suffice it to say that those who are “Humbly Unsure” would never become such evangelists!  They would not possess an attitude shaped by ethnocentrism, nor have committed to belief in an afterlife spent in heaven, hell, etc. Beliefs they have are often filled with doubt sufficient to preclude their sharing them—let alone trying to convert others!  So these timid unsure folks probably won’t be the ones to “change the world”…

Better candidates for doing that are the folks you find named on next card— the Jack of Diamonds“The True Believers”.  This title suggests a religious agenda. Give them an “I Know What’s Best for You” orientation and you’ve got a powerful alliance! Who will challenge them? The card’s flip side has the answer: “Skeptics!”

One such skeptic, Valerie Tarico, has launched a broad side attack on this alliance with an essay “Six Reasons Religion May Do More Harm Than Good.”  She argues religion promotes (closed-minded intolerant) tribalism, (fatalistic) helplessness, and “Iron Age” beliefs, specifically charging, “Sacred texts including the Bible, Torah and Koran all preserve and protect fragments of Iron Age culture, putting a god’s name and endorsement on some of the very worst human impulses.” And she claims Religion makes a virtue out of faith…”

…Which brings us to another diamonds carddiamonds are cards primarily related to “thinking” one seemingly skipped: the Ace of Diamonds. The choice here is stark: “Evidence-Based” or “Faith-Based.”  Evidence-based is a term many link with medical science—but more generally it can be an important part of a worldview. These themes capture an important cultural divide between those trusting in science & technology, and those religious / others who profess “In God We Trust.” To strike a balance and avoid taking sides in this age old conflict—having alluded to a religious skeptic viewpoint —consider what any essay about what’s good about religion might include. Based on something I hear nearly every Sunday—“Love is the doctrine of this congregation” —I’d start that other argument by saying religion has the potential to promote two important things: 1) treating each other right (think “The Golden Rule”), and 2) what some call “beloved community.” 

These two points direct our attention beyond “diamonds” to some “hearts” cards—cards primarily related to “feeling.”  The ten in that suit contrasts Golden Rule compassionate treatment of others, with fearing them (as in the “Culture of Fear” theme.) Another choice presented by the three of hearts contrasts the unconditional love behind the “Love is Family Glue” theme, with the flip side “Tough Love” choice. The latter promotes discipline, teaching responsibility and stresses obligations. Also inspired by themes on the nine of hearts card, we might ask, “Will the lesson in church family Sunday School focus on the New Testament loving, forgiving God (Jesus), or the vengeful Old Testament God and scary tales of hell-fire awaiting those who don’t behave?”    

Many of the themes you notice as you thumb through the card deck relate to “the big picture” and society as a whole, rather than solely to more focused, individual behavior.  For example The “Clubs” cards we consider next are related to “joining” behavior.  Before we turn to them, we pause to consider two more hearts cards: the jack and seven. On one side of the jack of hearts you find a self-centered, “Focus on Me, Here and Now” theme. Obviously to survive everyone needs to—at least sometimes—metaphorically dwell in this “here and now and me” realm.

However, some folks are unfortunately trapped by behavior not in their own best interest—behavior which, in the extreme, threatens their very survival. I’m referring to the cards flip side theme: “Addiction”. Why do people get trapped here? In short it—at least initially—feels good! Example: Those first few cigarettes mildly so; alcohol induced “buzzes” more so; and that first time shooting up heroin perhaps ecstatically so!  (Remember hearts cards are feelings related.) The seven of hearts more generally separates the things we more regularly do that feel good (i.e. eating very pleasing food), from things we do to maintain ourselves (i.e. just plain eating). Thus it contains “Hedonism” and “Healthy Orientation” themes.

I suspect anyone reading a “Choices We Make Can Change the World” themed essay does so out of a constructive, life-giving motivation, rather than destructive / early death one. Suffice it to say that a good starting point for those wanting to work for a better world is with oneself. This begins with making good choices for yourself—based on a healthy worldview. Mistakes can be valuable when one learns from the (sometimes painful) feedback they provide, and refines one’s worldview accordingly. Also, a healthy worldview builds on making choices that reinforce each together—not contradictory ones. Example: it seems pretty silly to me for someone supposedly concerned about global environment health to be polluting one’s own ecosystem by smoking or vaping tobacco / nicotine! 

Now, on to clubs cards. If we truly hope to be effective in “Working for Change” —one side of the ten of clubs—we need to magnify our voices / efforts by joining others.  Those comfortable with the status quo and choice on this card’s flip side also value tradition.  This can be connected with “the way we’ve always done it,” and traditional beliefs / “we believe that” —where the “we” refers to members of our tribe. Which brings us to the theme on one side of the five of clubs: theme #37A: “Proud Identification / Tribal”. A card carrying five of clubs tribal devotee might proclaim, “I’m a freedom loving American!” Seems in recent years the “American tribe” has devolved into lots of fighting between two smaller tribes: “Democrats” and “Republicans.”  In Britain, a similar degree of polarization involves “stay” and “leave” factions battling over the country’s membership in the European Union.

The “freedom loving American” orientation is to be contrasted with two choices someone else might make. One is opting for the five of clubs “Global Citizen” choice, the other embraces “Limits & Ethics” on the Ace of Spades card, instead of “Freedom From Limits.” (Spades are related to our “doing” as related to our impact on nature / the environment.)  If we bring in the nine of spades, the American’s shopping preferences / excesses might suggest a “More is Better Mentality,” while our global citizen might limit consumption / resource use and be happy with “Enoughness.” 

Metaphorically, American exceptionalism meets someone who—in the words of theme #37B—“thinks / behaves / votes based on protecting our planetary home and the well being of all its inhabitants.”  From the “McMansion” he owns, the “Land of the Free” patriot might dismiss global climate change concerns and encourage extracting all of the coal, oil, and natural gas we can to power America’s “Economic Growth” (one side of the ten of Spades); while the self proclaimed “United Nations fan,” from a tiny, solar panel equipped house, may preach “Sustainability” (the other side).

Factoring in a diamonds card—the two, with #9B “In God’s Hands: Apocalypticism” and #13 “Dancing With Systems” choices—our conservative church going friend feels nothing needs to be done about manmade future environmental threats to the quality of life on Earth, or other problems like drought, poverty, cancer, etc. These, some in the faith-based community might passively attribute to, in the words of Valerie Tarico,  “the will of God rather than bad decisions or bad systems; believers wait for God to solve problems they could solve themselves.” Our liberal church going global citizen, in contrast, with evidence-based concerns, is actively involved. In the words of theme #13, she summarizes where the battle against global climate change has been, and what it must achieve,  “We plan / anticipate. Trends è Predictions è Policy Changes. Averting catastrophe to create a future we choose.”    

Wouldn’t it be nice if these people, our religious and political leaders, and concerned citizens with different views everywhere, could get together and talk to each other, not yell at each other?  Sit down, perhaps over a deck of cards, and quietly talk, listen, find common ground — wouldn’t it be nice? And wouldn’t it be nice if our children could get involved in educational activity the Choices We Make cards can promote? Those children represent our future—a future our collective choices steadily shape.

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