A stack of interesting comments on the thread about getting it; about whether or not it took; about the feeling of belief. It’s interesting that they all converge, those by people like me who as far as they can tell never got it, and those by people who did get it at some point but then dropped it or flung it away. They all converge on how elusive and rare it is. Of course this isn’t a random sample, to put it mildly, and people who currently get it would produce very different comments. But the idea that this thing is elusive is interesting all the same.
It’s caused me to think that we mostly (we current non-believers) don’t really “believe” things much at all, not in the active, feeling sense that “getting it” is about. That’s not what we do with…what to call it: the furniture in our heads. Data; information; items received.
We can divide that into two big categories: things that other people know, that we learn on their authority, and things that we know from our own investigation. Items in the first category we don’t really actively “believe”; we accept them, depending on how reliable their sources are, while knowing that we don’t actually know them ourselves. Items in the second category we don’t really “believe” either; we know them, because we know how we got there.
In reality the two categories are a continuum; the more we know for ourselves the more the first evolves into the second. But neither really seems to involve any kind of feeling “belief”; it’s rather a question of more or less understanding. Once you know, belief becomes unnecessary, and before you know, belief is excessive. Belief is caught between the two, and disappears.
An example I thought of, a rather trivial one, is the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry. I don’t “believe” anyone else wrote his stuff, but that’s because I know some things, quite a number of small things. I know it’s not remarkable that there’s no record of his attendance at the Stratford grammar school (but I also know that there is no such record, so I know not to use his attendance as evidence that he wrote the plays and poetry, because in fact it’s the other way around – the plays and poetry are why it’s likely that he attended the school). I know there are written references to him dating from the early 1590s that name him as author of some of the plays, in particular one by a jealous angry university man who considered him a vulgar upstart. I know Ben Jonson said many things about him and that some were preserved by him or by other people, and that they are ambivalent; waspish and critical at one moment and awe-struck at another. I know his colleagues said things about him. I know a patchwork of little things like that, that make it silly to think that he didn’t write his stuff. So in a sense, yes, I don’t “believe” the Earl of Oxford wrote the plays, but “believe” isn’t really the right word.
This is a matter of cultural capital though, isn’t it. It’s bound to be. I’ve had opportunities to be schooled out of “belief” – or I was never schooled into “belief” in the first place, or both. That’s not true for everyone. I find this thought unnerving. Not surprising, but unnerving.