Otherworldly Propositions

My Love From Another Star - The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

How enduring can beliefs that can never be substantiated by logical proofs be? Literature, dramas, romance, friendship and, indeed, many endeavors in life require us to take a leap of faith and put time or effort in activities that do not always promise definite paybacks. Still, American author Kate DiCamillo writes dreamily in her award-winning work The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane of “fill[ing yourself] with expectancy,” “[being] awash in hope,”  “wonder[ing] who will love you” and “whom you will love next,” even as one season fades into another and years roll by without sight of anyone who reciprocates your feelings.

There are various motivating forces other than reason that drive people to believe in something. These include emotional appeal of a theory, obligation (e.g. trusting the integrity of one’s parents out of a sense of filial piety), tradition (e.g. adhering to the religion of the family or community one is born in) and even a simple desire that something is true. An obvious retort would be that, aside from emotional appeal, what these conditions generate are not genuine beliefs—adherents support the “beliefs” either unthinkingly or in spite of their true opinions (e.g. an investor wishing that his favorite stock would land him a windfall and insisting it would even though he knew that market conditions were unfavorable). While this argument portends to be valid in many instances, holding it as a general truth may, however, belittle the human power to pull wool over our own eyes. Indeed, cognitive dissonance—the mental discomfort stemming from contradictory beliefs, actions and/or decisions—can threaten our concept of self so much that we engage in self-justification strategies to reconcile the differences, and one such strategy may be to persuade ourselves, subconsciously or otherwise, of the soundness of the beliefs we adopt for whatever factor.

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