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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
256 pages
Jun 2006
Bethany House Publishers

Blah, Blah, Blah: Making Sense of the World's Spiritual Chatter

by Bayard Taylor

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt


Chapter Three: The Big Questions

I read somewhere a while back of a guy who grew up in New York as a "red diaper baby." This doesn't mean he had a bad rash. It means his parents were committed communists. Anyway, when he was growing up, his father would ask everyone he met, "What's your purpose in life?"

A good question. A fair question. A universal question.

In my freshman year, my college roommate asked me, "How can you say that you, who grew up in Southern California, who have lived only about eighteen years on this earth, who have not traveled the world or even seen that much of the United States--how can you say that you know `the truth?' "

A good question. A fair question. A universal question.

These questions and ones like them bring us to the heart of what it means to be human. What is our purpose, if any? How can puny people like us get to the truth about anything? What can we know? How can we know it? What is real? True? Good? People throughout history in every station of life have yearned for the answers to these questions.

And whatever the answer to those questions, its contours are going to be fixed by a whole set of almost-subconscious, rock-bottom convictions about how things really are and couldn't possibly be any other way. These convictions come into play far before we even start talking about philosophical or religious doctrines.

You can call this set of underlying assumptions controlling or fundamental beliefs, preconceived notions, presupposed ideas (or if you want to get fancy, presuppositions), subliminal thinking, preconscious thought, conceptual worlds, deep mental frameworks, or arch-whatevers. Immanuel Kant, the eminent eighteenth-century German philosopher, called it Weltanschauung, (velt-an-show'-ung).

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Worldview
Weltanschauung combines two German words: welt (world) and anschauung (view). Your worldview is your frame of reference, the spectacles through which you see the world.

Worldview is the biggest determiner of human behavior. You might say you believe one way, but your real worldview is revealed by what you do.

Lost in Translation
Just as words, phrases, and entire speeches can get lost in translation, the concept of worldview can get lost in culture. But worldview is not the same as culture.

Culture is the sum total of language, behaviors, social hierarchies, religion, customs, taboos, and punishments for acting outside of social norms. Culture includes material artifacts like buildings, art, clothing, decorations, tools, and implements for war. In traditional cultures, there is one controlling worldview that pretty much everyone accepts without question.

In contemporary cultures (say, Southern California suburbia), where people have many more lifestyle and belief options available, you can have neighbors living side by side who share a similar culture, but who have completely different worldviews.

Worldview Mosh Pit
The term worldview can be a mosh pit: vibrant, rough-and-tumble, and confusing. It's applied in all kinds of different ways in all kinds of fields, from culture, politics, economics, and save-the-world causes to religion, philosophy, and art. Sometimes you'll find it divided into two words (world view), and sometimes you'll see it as just one (worldview).

In this book I'll spell it as one word, and I'll be limiting the entire worldview discussion to the big questions mentioned at the beginning of the chapter.

By the way, no worldview has a monopoly on "the smart people." Wherever your life takes you after high school, you're bound to meet people who seem almost God-like in intelligence who may have worldviews entirely different from your own. At such times please remember: a person's sharp wit and IQ do not make his or her worldview true. Sharp wit and IQ just help that person cleverly portray it.

It's easy to feel intimidated when you're around people who are exceptionally intelligent. Just remember that you don't have to be a genius to hold to a solid and legitimate worldview. When you find yourself with someone who's really smart, try not to feel threatened. Ask questions; see what you can learn. Don't be fooled into thinking that intelligence is the main factor in discerning or knowing truth.

Excerpted from:
Blah Blah Blah: Making Sense of the World's Spiritual Chatter by Bayard Taylor
Copyright 2006; ISBN 0764201875
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.