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Worldview Matters Essay:  We are the Choices We Make

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

The cards and related booklet contain what are called worldview themes. For example, consider the King of Diamonds card, or choice #2 as found in the booklet, with the “Mind Open, Vision Global” theme on one side, and “Mind Narrowly Focused” 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? Figuring that out is a good starting point if you're dissatisfied with your own life, your relationship to the world you live in, or what other people do based on their beliefs and values. Ultimately your worldview is expressed in choices you make; the state of the world reflects trillions of choices “we” have collectively made. The fifty two cards and related Choices We Make booklet provide a useful framework for characterizing worldviews and pursuing a global education. 

Back to the themes in that framework and specifically the next card or choice (#3) in the bookletnamely, the Queen of Diamonds. Note “Humbly Unsure” appears on one side, and “I Know What’s Best for You” on the other. Perhaps 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 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 one of the themes on the next card, the Jack of Diamonds / choice #4,“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…”  

We now return to the card we could have started this essay with: the Ace of Diamonds / choice #1 with "Evidence Based" and "Positive Expectations" themes. At first glance it seems to offer a choice between realism and optimism, or probing a bit deeper between valuing evidence or wishful thinking. If you wish to become what famed psychologist Abraham Maslow called a self-actualized person consider his conclusion. “Probably the most universal and common aspect of these superior people, is their ability to see life clearly, to see it as it is, not as they wish it to be. In other words, they prefer the Evidence-Based theme and avoid the wishful thinking related alternative. That latter phrase once served as the title for this theme, but realizing it had negative connotations it was re-titled "Positive Expectations." This name recognizes the value in having hope and in thinking positivelyand in having faith that outcomes can be steered in a positive direction. 

Like many of the choices, both of the alternatives in choice #1 have some value. Project Worldview seeks to help those trying to sort out "the confusion of existence." A big part of this is helping people stay firmly grounded in reality and avoid deluding themselvessomething that can easily lead to bodily harm. Example: if you're sick, do you trust your treatment to a reputable doctor with credentials or a faith healer? Evidence-based is a term many link with medical science—but more generally it can be an important part of a worldview. The two choice #1 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: the extent to which it promotes caring about other people and treating them right.

With this we turn our attention from “diamonds” cards to “hearts” cards—cards primarily related to “feeling.” The ace in that suit—choice #14—balances "Relaxed, Generous, Loving" with "Cautious Processing" themes. Likewise the ten in that suit—choice #18— 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 / choice # 25 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. Inspired by themes on the nine of hearts card /choice #19, we can imagine Christian parents wondering, “Will the lesson in 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?” Or—in an Islamic context—the stark contrast between scenes of joyous whirling Dervish Sufis dancing to bring God / Allah's love down to Earth, with violent jihadists punishing foreign infidels by beheading them.   

Many of the themes you notice as you thumb through the card deck, or turn the pages in the booklet, relate to “the big picture” and society as a whole, rather than solely to more focused, individual behavior.  The offering on the front of the box you can make to hold your cards captures their potential societal impact: "It's just a humble card deck—but it can burst bubbles, change minds, and just perhaps ...CAN CHANGE THE WORLD." 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—ones based on the goal of attaining a healthy worldview. You may not initially get it right, but mistakes can be valuable when you learn from the (sometimes painful) feedback they provide, and refines your worldview accordingly. Needless to say a healthy worldview builds on making choices that reinforce each together—not contradictory ones. Example: it seems pretty silly for someone supposedly concerned about global environment health to be polluting his or her own ecosystem by smoking or vaping tobacco / nicotine!   

With those remarks, we turn from feelings / hearts cards to clubs cards—those related to  “joining” behavior.  If we truly hope to be effective in “Working for Change” —one side of the ten of clubs / choice #31we need to magnify our voices / efforts by joining others.  In contrast, those comfortable with the status quo and choice on this card’s flip side value tradition.  They are comfortable 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 / choice # 36: theme #37A: “Proud Identification & Tribalism”. 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 involved “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” theme, the other embraces “Limits & Ethics” on the Ace of Spades card / choice #40, 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 / choice #45, 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.”  Here metaphorically we have American exceptionalism meeting someone who—in the words of our Global Citizen as described in 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 / choice #44); while the global citizen may live in a tiny, solar panel equipped house, be a “United Nations fan” and preach the need for “Sustainability” (the other side of the card).

Factoring in a diamonds card—the two / choice #13, with “Simply in God’s Hands: Apocalypticism” and  “Complexity...Dancing With Systems” alternatives—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 the ...Dancing With Systems theme 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 or a short booklet, and quietly talk, listen, find common ground — wouldn’t it be nice? And wouldn’t it be nice if our older children could get involved in educational activity the Choices We Make cards can promote? Or perhaps pursue an independent study global education course. Those children represent our future—a future our collective choices steadily shape.


back to Worldviews--An Introduction                    back to Choice #1

for more about The Choices We Make Cards click here

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