On The Battlefield of Ideas (A Response To "Crossing Enemy Lines") by Betsy Chasse

Photo by Ben Fama Jr.

"My enemies are my coach, they teach me how to be strong and wise."

I am not sure of the original person of that quote, but in my own life it rings very true.  Recently, friend and fellow filmmaker Betsy Chasse (What The Bleep Do We Know?) wrote an article in the Huffington Post entitled "Crossing Enemy Lines", where she talks about her encountering me as a skeptic and atheist who quote "pretty much despised like with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns despised everything I held dear".

She would not be wrong.  You can find many instances in the last few years  where I have said on the internet and elsewhere that would prove that statement true in an instant.  I am usually very vocal about my skepticism. Sometimes I am not afraid to directly challenge people, even if it feels unconventional.  I would be lying and not being true to myself if I said I wasn't a pretty militant skeptic.

But many people close to me know that is only one part of the entire picture of me, and Betsy is one of those people who knows me.  I had to a chance to meet Betsy on a film panel at the first Sedona World Wisdom Days.  We hit it off very well, and have been good friends since. But that is not where this journey, to me, started.

Many people know, especially close to me, that What The Bleep Do We Know, was such important and eye opening film in my life.  It was a movie that I dearly loved, and in fact was the very first movie I showed my current wife when we met.  Friends of mine know how much I loved that movie and how much I thought of it.  This is long before I became the skeptic I am today, I don't think I would have guessed in a thousand years that I would have been where I am at today challenging the very thing and ideas I came so close and held dear to me.

When I met Betsy, we hit it off very well.  Here was someone that I truly looked up to on a film that I truly loved, yet I knew, even at this time, may not believe to be correct anymore.  Looking back, I believe I was the only skeptic on that film panel, trying to challenge spirituality, but showing I also challenge what we know.  I have tried hard to maintain a balance between spiritualism and science, but have learned that I have been losing that battle for many years, each time with science winning.  It's been a hard battle for sure.

As I got to know Betsy, I knew we both had a deep passion of learning and filmmaking, and while we tend to disagree with certain view points, we have always shared a common respect for each other, and have a lot in common.  Most people know we debate a lot, but she forces me to check what I think I know, and forces me to rethink my arguments.  It keeps me fresh in trying to know my arguments. I hope that I do the same for her.

This is why I love that quote that says "My enemies are my coach, they teach me how to be strong and wise."  Because Betsy is the type of person, just like a lot of people in the spiritual community, that teach me how to be strong and wise.  Which does not make them my enemies.

So while most of the world will view me, even rightly so, as an angry atheist or skeptic, there are those that know that I know that people are more than their belief systems, and I recognize that.

We are all trying to find meaning in purpose in this world.  I was once a believer, and I wasn't anymore stupid or dumb for being one.  Yes, there are some things that are going to drive me apeshit crazy about some people and their beliefs, but their are many more things that I am compassionate and understand about, even if I don't agree with them. I love having those conversations more than anything with those who dare to talk about them.

While there are films I may not agree with, I am usually the first person to watch them.  Why?  Because I always learn something.  I learn to understand where someone is coming from, I understand why they believe it, and it helps me understand what it is I think.  I believe people should try to learn both sides of the argument.  It helps them understand it more.  Like the article in Huffington Post stated, these are conversations, and I would rather be talking about these things with people that think different than me, than wasting it on the benign and mundane conversations about shit that doesn't matter who would agree with me.  I just want to challenge what we think.  I know others do to.  This means to remember in this so called "war" that we gain civil discourse every once in a while.  Not every person is your enemy.

This may confuse people, but it shouldn't.  Because I believe that the battlefield of ideas also requires some alliances.  No war was ever fought without gaining the hearts of others.  At the end of the day, we are all still people, and there is more than we can agree on than disagree before we die. You may believe in God, and I may not, but I still wish for you not to suffer and to find that awe and joy in life. I know I may not change a lot of people's minds.  But this is my journey to knowing.  It's up to you to figure out how you will discover truth. This is my yin and yang. I know enough to say I don't know enough. But I try everyday.

So what the ?$%#@ do we know?