Wednesday, July 28

Does Skepticism take the fun out of life?

Part of me has always been a skeptic. Even as a Christian I used to experiment. Being told that I couldn't do things I would try them to find out why. I borrowed a book on self-hypnosis from the library, burnt joss sticks in my room and practised yoga. I was somewhat disappointed that I never ended up being possessed by a demon.

Tai chi - Guess I'd be the bald one...One thing I experimented with was Tai Chi. I borrowed a DVD from a friend and learnt my first kata, or sequence, within 2 hours. It was supposed to take weeks to learn properly, so either I'm a very fast learner or my technique was very sloppy, but I was happy enough and practiced whenever I could. I tried to feel the Chi moving through my body, but all that seemed to happen is that my legs got tired. Eventually, a week after I began, I realised that Tai Chi was unlikely to be the play thing of scheming demons and gave it up.

Recently though, in my quest to find spirituality, I decided to try it again. Realising a DVD may not have been the best way to learn a marshal art, I attended a free taster session at a local park instead. And watched as my skepticism took all the fun out of it.

The teacher, dressed all in black in the 28° heat, began to teach to us about Chi.

Is this what Chi looks like?"Chi", he told us, "is the life force running through your body. It is centred just below and behind the belly button, and is the source of all your energy." He went on to tell us that the reason we get ill is because our Chi is blocked, and that Tai Chi is a natural way to remove any blockages and promote optimum health.

The problem is that I already know about Chi. And I know that Chi doesn't exist. No evidence has ever been found to support it. No working medicine is based on it. No laws of physics allow for it.

And just like that the session was ruined for me. I'd hoped to try Tai Chi as a moving form of meditation: a way to clear my mind. Instead I spent the rest of the session trying to ignore the fact that the energy meant to be moving through me didn't exist. Far from being relaxed I felt like a fraud. At any moment I my mask might slip and I'd be revealed as the James Kirk fan at the Star Wars convention

This is where my skepticism had brought me. I had gone to the class looking to experience some peace, and instead experienced a deep desire to sit everyone down and explain basic biology to them.

This isn't the first time my skepticism has done this. It's ruined films and TV shows, made me doubt my friends harmless stories and anecdotes, and even put me on guard whilst someone is pouring out their heart to me and asking me for help. My critical thinking has trained me to doubt everything. And it's making me more of a cynic than I want to be!

I love my skepticism. I love being able to apply critical thinking to the world around me. But I still want to be able to get lost in some of the mysteries of the planet. I still want to able to indulge in some of the benefits of the spiritual world without needing to believe the lies that are behind it. But my skepticism doesn't have an off switch!

How do you stop your skepticism from taking over your life? Is it possible to be a skeptic and still enjoy new, mysterious, experiences?

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