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BELIEF

I've experienced a misconception toward me by people who believe in the supernatural. Because I do not believe in the supernatural, some people assume I'm incapable of exercising belief at all. They might ask me, "Well, you don't believe in god, so do you believe in anything?"

"Yes" is the short answer, but it's worth explaining more. As a body philosopher, I define 'believing' as imagining something and then exercising the core posture of "yes." No matter what I imagine: "The sky is blue....yes." "The sky is green with orange pocodots...yes." "3+ 3 is 18...yes." Even though the last two statements are incorrect, all of the statements fall under the umbrella as exercises of belief.

So if exercising belief always results in "yes," what's the good of it? Why exercise belief at all if it allows for the possibility of saying yes to ideas that are not true?" It's a good question, to which I reply: the exercise of believing is a useful tool for planning life.

For example, Let's say I want to have lunch tomorrow with a friend. We decide to meet at 1 'o clock. After we finish talking on the phone, another friend asks, "Who was that?"

And I say, "That was my friend. We are going to have lunch tomorrow at 1."

He says, "Are you sure you are going to have lunch?"

I say, "Yes."

He says, "Well, how do know you're going to be alive tomorrow?"

And I say, "I believe I will be alive."

And he, trying to annoy me, says but "How do you knooowww?"

And I reply, "I've been alive every day through today. I'm young with good genes. I have no terminal illnesses. I live in a safe place with access to basic needs, and I have friends who look out for me. Based on those facts, I believe I will be alive tomorrow."

So there it is, I exercised belief without knowing the outcome of whether I will be alive tomorrow. I exercised belief as a way to make a decision without wasting time or oscillating in anxiety about the unknown future. In this way, the act of believing is a useful tool for planning life. And so, I would say that I exercise belief all the time, but that doesn't mean that I subscribe to the supernatural, because, I understand believing as a body process. I imagine something, like being alive tomorrow, maybe wondering for a split second if I won't be alive, perhaps feeling a little fear and anticipation, and then I exercise the core posture of "yes," thus dispelling any anxiety with a pleasure pose.

Interestingly, people who believe in the supernatural and might argue that the experience of "yes" is a supernatural movement and therefore claim that when I exercise belief, I am engaging in a supernatural activity. I disagree. When I exercise belief, I imagine something, then I exercise the core posture of "yes," which is a pleasurable and subtle pose of ah, which includes lifted soft palate, lowered larynx, expanded ribs and abdominals, expanded pelvic floor--it's a pleasure pose of the body.

Therefore, I define believing as a body exercise for the body. I exercise belief to plan a good life and to feel good planning it. I exercise belief to make plans for myself, but I draw a particular line at death. This is another difference between my exercise of belief and those who believe in the supernatural. Many people who believe in the supernatural believe some part of the conscious self will live after death. I disagree. In response to believing in life after death, I have two objections:

The first objection concerns how the body works. People who believe in life after death, think they will retain, at the very least, some aspect of their consciousness. Many also believe that they will retain processes of personality, emotion, memory. As a body philosopher, I argue that all of these processes including consciousness are created by the body, core muscles being essential contributors. If the body is dead, all of these processes are dead.

The second objection is a moral one concerning how we plan society. I think the particular belief of life after death leads to societal planning that ultimately leads to destruction. Planning for life over generations requires analyzing the effects of real world circumstances on bodies living now, and bodies of the next generation. This planning includes addressing the decay and death of body, which more deeply includes the decay and death of emotions, decay and death of memories, decay and death of consciousness, decay and death of all human experience. By characterizing the human self as a body that eventually dies, people cultivate a sensible mental framework that can be exercised to plan a complex society and address the reality of human decay and death on a societal level.

Without this kind of mental framework, people do not reason within the parameters of self as body, and therefore are prone to exceed body parameters, justifying it with the belief that the thinking self is not the body, and often this is stretched even further by the belief that the thinking self is infinite. I see this everywhere in culture--in many ways. For example, I see people working to exhaustion and justifying it with a narrative that encourages beating up body for the freedom and achievement of the mind (as if the two are separate). And that's just one activity inspired by a system of thought that does not frame human experience within the parameters of being a body and therefore fails to educate people on how to plan sustainably for themselves and for others as bodies.Correcting this problem begins with the body. It's become clear to me that people who do not plan for themselves as bodies do not think in sustainable ways. And when an entire population cannot exercise sustainable planning, society fails.

I don't want that. I want to believe that people can plan for society and solve problems beginning with sensibly understanding the human self as a body. I think of myself as a body and I exercise belief as part of my problem-solving: I believe I can solve a problem which involves imagining an effective solution and then exercising the core posture of "yes" which feels good, then, feeling good, I move to solve the problem. So for me, the next question is how do we exercise belief to solve problems on a societal scale without supernatural ideologies? I think part of the solution is addressing misconceptions about what belief is. Believing is a process of exercising imagination and then acknowledging the imagined experience with the core posture of yes. I think creating a collective understanding of how belief works is one important step, of many, toward cultivating a society that plans for life.

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© 2018 by MADELINE MCNEILL