Wednesday, January 12, 2011

To Believe or Not to Believe...

In response to Peter Elbow’s essay, The Doubting Game and the Believing Game—An Analysis of the Intellectual Enterprise, found in the appendix of his notorious book, “Writing Without Teachers,” I find myself pondering many things about man, life, writing, and technology in general.
First of all, the believing game must extend more fully to incorporative the intuitive nature of our beings. If man were to disbelieve in all regards, then life would inevitably be a mirage of hopeless dreams and frustration, with no need for pursuing any triumphs above failure. How then is it that man continually provokes a negative nature and underlying distain and distrust for the world around him?  What is it that inherently expunges his disbeliefs and keeps him going? Is it the exaggerated notion of petty faith or simply the need for survival in human existence? And if there is that need for faith (as some believe Maslow might argue), then at what level does that need ascertain the belief of believing? At what level of our existence is there truly a need for belief? For faith, hope, dreams? Can man exist fully without the faith that he is presently secure, without his belief in life, without hope for the future? I undoubtedly argue that he cannot fully exist and live a fulfilling life without such optimistic notions.
So why then, when belief is such an essential part of our human existence, does man continually digress to the doubting game, as Elbow calls it, when theoretically, his belief is what nourishes a part of his being? Is it true then to assume that the doubting game is just as much of an essential element to his being as the believing game? Is existence based on the concept of yin and yang? Of balance? Of both good and evil? Should life consist more fully of belief or doubt? Do you doubt this now, and if so, what portion of you believes?
I think life is about balance, but I do also believe that there is far more to the believing game than the doubting game. I would actually argue that it is often easier to doubt than to believe because to believe means that you understand and accept something that you may not have ever seen or heard.
When referring to writing, in order for a reader to believe in the writer, he or she must be able to understand the writer’s perspective—be that of his or her own or not. It takes far more for a person to look outside of his or her own perspective in order to accept and believe in someone else’s writing. It’s easy for me to stick with what I know, stick to my perspective and only accept those things that reinforce my thoughts and ideals. It takes far more thought for me to consider multiple points of view and other perspectives, beliefs, and thoughts.
One mindedness is one mindedness, no matter which side the believer is on. Belief is more than simply adhering to a belief system; it’s expanding one’s mind to include a variety of thoughts and perspectives—no matter how much they differ from one’s own. In my opinion, there is more value to believing, and I think it should take great precedence over doubt in any man’s life. 


  1. Re: "Should life consist more fully of belief or doubt?"

    I like this mode of questioning, Grace. I think it makes sense to some degree for us to trace believing and doubting into areas of faith, skepticism, and general worldview (or intellectual disposition). You're familiar with the fuzzy commonplace "critical thinking," right? When I hear "critical thinking," which is a fairly common reference in education at all levels, I think of "critical" as a kind of crisis mode in which believing and doubting are held in tension by the other. In other words, too passively (or unquestioningly) believing or too hastily (or unreflectively) doubting) is akin to the opposite of "critical thinking." Playing the believing and doubting game as a kind of both/and, it seems, is what we might mean by the very idea of "critical thinking." Maybe?

  2. A very thought provoking post. I especially like "it is often easier to doubt than to believe because to believe means that you understand and accept something that you may not have ever seen or heard."

    I think one of the main themes of your post is humility. Humility (and respect) towards other people and their perspectives and beliefs.

    Humility is something that I found crucial in my classroom. I believe I have to earn the respect of my students, listen to their ideas and never belittle them.

    Humility is also a discipline which demands practice and self reflection. Indeed, it is easier to be doubtful than to be humble.

    Great looking blog by the way.

  3. hi..Im student from Informatics engineering, this article is very informative, thanks for sharing :)