An unexamined conviction is not worth having. Following up on the very high bar that Socrates has set with the ‘unexamined life is not worth living.’ Why wouldn’t he just claim that an examined life is better than the not? Why the sharp rebuke? If in fact, Socrates said this it is the kind of device he would have used to challenge an audience. In a world where absolutes reign, it is easy to understand the resistance we have to examining and re-examining those deeply held convictions that we have built our value set and worldview upon. But, if we are sentient beings; fully able to feel and perceive, wouldn’t examination be a first nature response?
I have lived about 2/3 of my life convinced that I understood and believed stuff that I had never given proper consideration to fully examining. I firmly and stubbornly held a worldview that had more to do with my father and little to do with logic. I accepted a pile of rubble because I agreed with one nugget of gold that was buried in the mess. Some of my certainties were/are embedded in ancient wisdom that is only ancient now. As we examine our world, we may see that things have changed. It has only been about 200 years since we came to understand that the world was likely older than 4004 years. Almost everyone held that belief until they didn’t because their awareness and understanding changed. As humans, we are subject to bias and prejudice whether we are willing to acknowledge them.
During my childhood and teen years, I lived in Saskatchewan and the rhetoric and myths of successive governments formed a big piece of my family’s value set. During the early 1960’s, the government of the day introduced the first form of Medicare, in Canada. The principals of universality, equality, privacy and single payer were layered into the fabric of the practice and philosophy of healthcare. For decades, I held to those principles with the zealousness of an evangelist. I defended the cumbersome system with all it’s failures because I unconditionally accepted the founding principles. There wasn’t any room, intellectually, emotionally or practically to question the system because of the sacred propositions.
When I found the courage to examine these convictions, I discovered that I could support the institution of care for all who needed it without holding universality, equality, and privacy sacrosanct. Under an early examination, I concluded that universality and equality were or had been reduced to lowest common denominator thinking. If we had 10,000 patients needing hip surgery (and the system could afford the cost) and 100 surgeons able to do the surgery at a rate of 1 per day, then universality and equality stated that some would need to wait 100 days or more. The system and the principles were weighted heavily on a first come first serve mentality. But if rather than equality, we used equity as the standard, we don’t reduce the wait time for some but those in most dire need would be moved to the front of the line. As I worked through my own analysis (unscientific but with rigor) on two more occasions, a few years apart, I still concluded that equity is a more efficient and humane practice. The upshot is that I let go of equality as a criteria for policy and program creation (in healthcare, education, housing …) and embraced equity.
When I suggested this to colleagues and friends, most were offended. That isn’t a good enough reason to stop the examination or toss the conclusion. In fact, it may be further reason to look at the embedded fundamental truths, that they had learned at the feet of their own history.
I will stop here with the disclaimer that I am not trying to convince you or unconvince you of any of your convictions. I confess that I am trying to convince you to examine all your convictions on a regular basis. I still regularly revisit the philosophy and practice of equity, usually when I have become intransigent and cocksure about my position.
What fundamental conviction do you hold that hasn’t been revisited for years or never? Do you have the willingness and courage to disrupt your own cart of comfort? Fair warning – as you examine your convictions, you open the door to your life and how you lead it. Even if there is no change in how you hold the firm declaration, just by observing it under a different light, you can help but changing the observer.
Take up a conviction challenge today,