The unexamined life is not worth living. These are the words rumoured to have been uttered by the ancient thinker Socrates while on trial and facing a possible death sentence. This act of examination, of questioning and learning about the world around us, about ourselves, about what it means to be a good person and to know the truth, can itself provide a life that is meaningful and fulfilling. As far as we have been able to observe so far, our particular combination of sentience and complex cognitive processes are amazingly rare gifts, and it is our duty to use these to improve the world, not just for ourselves and the people we know, but for all human beings and non-human life. We cannot find meaning and truth by only giving things a momentary thought, or accepting what we have been taught as we grew up, or embracing what is popular. Understanding must be an ongoing process. A life infused with authentic meaning cannot be found by looking towards what is comfortable, familiar and safe.
… many unexamined lives together result in an uncritical, unjust, dangerous world. ~ Linda Elder, September, 2007
Developing critical thinking skills to guide us is crucial. It is quite different than simply finding and learning information, or accepting new information only when it fits into our already known framework. Critical thinking is a committed, life-long discipline of perpetually building one’s own ability to realize when they are manipulating information to serve their own desires; it is an active attempt to strengthening one’s own intellectual integrity.ᔥ This set of skills will allow one to recognize the complexity of issues and situations, avoiding oversimplified conclusions that ignore the needs, experiences, and rights of other people. This act is very much against our human nature, requiring an ongoing commitment.
Critical thinking of any kind is never universal in any individual; everyone is subject to episodes of undisciplined or irrational thought. Its quality is therefore typically a matter of degree and dependent on, among other things, the quality and depth of experience in a given domain of thinking or with respect to a particular class of questions. No one is a critical thinker through-and-through, but only to such-and-such a degree, with such-and-such insights and blind spots, subject to such-and-such tendencies towards self-delusion. For this reason, the development of critical thinking skills and dispositions is a life-long endeavor. criticalthinking.org
In Buddhist philosophy, there is a term called the “monkey mind” – we all have the tendency to be irrational, unfair, simplistic, and even mean. It takes great discipline to learn and maintain the process of intentionally and proficiently analyzing information, to become good observers, to know when our emotions, past experiences or prejudices are clouding our vision. It takes a certain devotional practice to embrace reflection and reasoning. Yet, this is what must guide our beliefs if we want to lead an examined life. In developing our ability to think critically we gain clarity, become more consistent, less prejudiced. Our new beliefs then gain a level of depth, increase their scope, and help us become rational civil, decent and peaceful people, letting us live with dignity and integrity.
It may seem like “independent thinking” and a group of people banding together under one identity are states of being that cannot possibly co-exist. These concepts are not truly at odds. There clearly must be core values and ideas which create a thread of similarity that bind together the people who consider themselves a part of Thequendo. However, there are many important concepts in which people are encouraged to develop their own conclusions and that a deep respect for the different conclusions individuals may reach is fundamental to what makes up the Thequendo identity.
One of these core values is Independent Thinking. This requires building critical thinking skills; constantly learning, listening, and discussing. One must be open to information that is very different from ideas they currently hold as true and sacred, approaching differences with curiosity and gentleness, putting great effort into avoiding anger and frustration. Because we are human, we know this is hard. Because it is hard, we know it is necessary.
One cannot follow the Thequendo path without embracing this. Other core values that bind us together are Practical Wisdom and Genuine Kindness. We believe people should reach their own conclusions on ideas such as God, Sexuality, Abortion, Ritual, and many others. Treating people’s with dignity, even when it can be hard to bestow, even when it is hard to justify, is essential. Seeking to shame, control or reject people who believe things very different from ourselves is utterly unacceptable. That includes treating people who might have racist or sexist ideas with gentleness and dignity as well, for in failing to do so, we embrace the evils we seek to overcome. We risk the danger of becoming a mirror reflection of what we believe to be immoral.
There is a derogatory label used amongst Catholics that holds an important concept that needs to be addressed: “Cafeteria Catholics“. This term refers to people who may choose to believe certain Christian ideas, like love your enemies, while rejecting other concepts in Christian scripture, like homosexuality is an abomination. To the practitioners of the Christian faith which use this term, it means that the spiritual dedication of “Cafeteria Catholics” is based on convenience since a “true believer” should accept the doctrine in its entirety. Thequendo embraces the idea of working through information to find the valuable parts and rejecting others. Perfection is a tall order for us to reach in the entire span of a single lifetime. In many thousands of years, the human race as a collective has not been able to reach a pure state of wisdom, truth, love, and forgiveness and we may never do so. As such no one person, scripture, faith or philosophy holds the entire truth in its purest form. Nor does Thequendo have the answers. Be wary of any person or philosophy that claims to have all the answers. It is perfectly possible that truth is not so much a matter of binary concepts such as black and white, but instead a gradient. Like a giant column of whirling smoke, in a million shades of gray, ever changing based on context, with a flame of passion for sincerity at its center. Thequendo accepts ideas from a wide variety of other faiths, as well as from agnostic and atheist philosophers. Those who consider themselves a part of Thequendo use their critical thinking skills to adopts ideas from science and the liberal arts, as well as eagerly exploring the words of fictional literature, art and music to broaden their knowledge of the human condition.
The blog will share ideas from all sorts of sources to help those who are seekers, for all those who yearn and ache for a profound experience and meaningful life. This site will share content from all world religions, from branches of science and philosophy, from literature and art. We will do our best to share information that does not lean to a certain bias or specific conclusion, except that is should always align with our values in Practical Wisdom and Genuine Kindness.
We may at times fail at this difficult goal because this website is run by ordinary people which are as flawed and vulnerable as the rest of humanity, but we will do our best and ask your patience and forgiveness where we fail. We encourage everyone to share with us content that would help us broaden our minds, to make all of us who choose this path wiser and kinder.