Cognitive Dissonance

Mozart Dissonance


We are separated from God.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in our inner, spiritual lives and the mundane travesties we witness in the world around us.  Day by day we recognize that the world at large for the most part does not care.  We work at it, doing our best, trying to scrupulously bring our inner lives out, but the world shrugs its shoulders and goes about it’s daily business.

At the same time, we are in a personal relationship with the creator of it all.  We are taken into his arms, redeemed and supported… aren’t we?  If God is all knowing, all loving, and all powerful, why do we examine the world and feel sullied by its presence despite our attempts at bringing more light into it?  What, at the end of the day, is the point?

We pray hard.  We work hard.  We seek to do well by our fellow man.  Like some great beast the world around us takes it all in, consumes and howls for more.  We feel assailed in our spiritual fortress and feel that nothing we do will get beyond those walls.  Our lives become futility, and we respond by trying less… not daring to stretch forth a hand should it be again bitten.

Some among us become overcautious, viewing all the world and its inhabitants with a deep suspicion.  It’s not that some are out to hurt and take, but all are.  Our spiritual fortress becomes our living walls, surrounding us as we move, a great barge of protective stone to keep the world at bay.  We isolate ourselves further and further from the sticky, dirty issues that surround us, retreating into the closest thing we can find to peace.  Yet the howls remain outside the walls, and we only grow sicker with each in hearing them.

Others among us take up swords of our own righteousness.  We stride out to purge what we see, thinking it better to fall in battle against what assails us than to wait for it to consume us slowly.  Hacking and slashing at each affront to our sensibility, charging heedless at the source of our perceived malaise, we abandon ourselves to our personal crusades and carve a path forward.  In the process there will be collateral damage, but we refuse to see it, thinking those not strong enough to stand beside us must not be on our side.

Still others give up.  The winds and waves take them wherever they go.  They lose hope, drift, and try their best to ignore anything outside of their immediate vision.  They have been battered into a numb submission and let the world, their very lives, slip by.  The moment matters, the snippets of joy stolen from the leavings of an uncaring world… That is all they seek, nothing more.

Finally, are those who join the other side.  Not those who give up, but those who actively cast off the mantle of their own spiritual lives and rebel against them.  The motivations differ, but it is no longer good enough to lack, the spark of faith has to be wiped out in those for whom it remains.  Theirs is a hungry existence, ever searching out the next flame of hope to consume under a multitude of guises such as reason.

These are all symptoms of the cognitive dissonance we carry; burgeoning until it overtakes us.  Bit by bit our anxiety grows as we can no longer reconcile what we see with what we believe.  The disconnect, the discord between ourselves and God seeps into every part of our lives.  If only our vision was aligned with God!  If only we had the perfect vision and discernment!  The big picture fully available, the fog of life would dissipate and allow us to rest with our daily choices.

1 Corinthians 13:11-13

New King James Version (NKJV)

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The dissonance is there, of that there can be no doubt.  We do see in a mirror, dimly, and dismay at the distorted reflection therein.  The question put to each of us becomes then, “How do we respond?”  Is there a means of tempering our impulses, our need for security, or our desire for some earthly balance?  They key is in the recognition of that verse.  We do see but a distorted reflection of what is.  We realize what should be, and the dissonance comes through our non-acceptance of the reflection not matching the inner vision.

Many will say that it is an easy fix.  Follow our simple program for $19.95 and you too can achieve greatness!  You to can reshape the world to your vision!  Welllll… not exactly.  What we can do, is be responsible not for the situations outside of our control, but rather our response to them.  We can accept that our mirrors are dim, the reflections not true to our inner reality.  Having done so, we can take responsibility for our reactions to those reflections.

If you’ve ever been in a fun house or house of mirrors, you know that what you see can be at times amusing, at other times grotesque.  However you know that it is not the reality, but a poor reflection.  In much the same way, we wander through our own houses of mirrors with our inner selves so full of certainty, and gasp when the reflection does not match.  If we were singular beings in the universe, surely we could expect nice rows of mirrors matching precisely what we wanted to reflect.  This is not the case, however.

The vast web of personal choices and the effects each choice brings is beyond the scope of any of us.  Only God can see the true, big picture.  We are left with our imperfect mirrors because while we have true freedom, we do not have the capability to absorb the interplay of those freedoms.  Thus what we are left with is not the reshaping of the world as a whole, but responsibility for how we react to what we see.

One by one, each person can seize hold of their dissonance, and take responsibility for what it is they can shape; their inner lives, their inner selves, and the actions that spring forth from such.  One by one, each person can learn to adjust around the reflection, and in doing, teach others the same.  One by one, our mirrors can be understood and our immediate world, if not the one at large, can be enhanced by our understanding.

We may never be rid of our cognitive dissonance, because we live separate from our creator.  What we can do, however, is understand the outer world while acting on the inner, and generate what faith, hope and love we can.  To “put away our childish things”, our reactions to the reflections and focus on being who our inner selves dictate, to the greater glory of God.  Dissonance is, after all, just noise.

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