A worldview is, well, a world. In it, some things are clearly seen, like the land, bodies of water, trees, animals, and so forth. It has horizons, beyond which we cannot see but can only imagine. It has a clearly seen but mysterious firmament, a blue sky that is above us at all times but whose nature we poorly understand and beyond which is the unknown.
What does a sailor do? He sails toward the horizon, and the farther he sails, the more the horizon recedes. Where does an astronaut go? She launches right through that blue sky and out into the cosmic abyss we call ‘space-time’ that has no discernible boundary.
I am a sailor and an astronaut, an explorer of unknown realms.
There are two types of learning: first, we can learn our world through acculturation, indoctrination, and socialization. These sketch out the horizons of the world we are to live in, as well as the forms and forces we can legitimately interact with. Second, we can approach the horizons of our world and, by so doing, ceaselessly enlarge the world. The difference between a sustainable worldview and an unsustainable one is that the former has extendable horizons, while the latter has uncrossable boundaries. These uncrossable boundaries may be opaque like a brick wall (when information is inaccessible to the curious) or transparent like a glass door (when information is accessible). In the case of unsustainable worldviews with uncrossable boundaries, the uncrossability of the boundaries is maintained by authority, fear, threat of punishment, etc. If these obstacles are overcome, then the erstwhile boundary becomes permeable enough to transgress.
Both types of learning are valid and needed. Without a world(view), we humans become disoriented. Without a world(view) that can fluidly evolve, we fall out of step with the ever-changing environment we are embedded in. There must be a delicate balance between stability and change, rigidity and flexibility, stasis and flux. It seems this balance is rarely achieved. The moment a worldview ceases changing – be it from fear, comfort, fatigue, or disease – it begins to contract and ossify. Its adherents become more concerned with maintaining the familiar elements and secure boundaries than with the dynamic, living interplay between human worldview and more-than-human world.
In my search for truth, I eventually hit the glass wall. I could dimly see the green rolling hills and purple misty mountains beyond it, but the border guards told me that going there was forbidden and punishable with everlasting torment. I was horrified by the Truman Show-esqueness of my life up to that point, and this gave me the gumption to shatter the glass and shoot out to greener intellectual grasses. For me, this first meant reading Christian authors that my seminary considered problematic for their dogma. Then within a year or two, it meant going beyond Protestantism altogether into the much wider world of Catholicism in which I found the pure, thin air my mountaineer lungs had been longing for. As I slowly ascended the mountain of Rome, I gained the perspective I needed to integrate my Christianity with the blooming fields of science.
On July 27, 2008, I captured this paradigm shift in a short and simple confession:
I’m not an American, Evangelical, Protestant Christian.
I’m a Global, Ecological, Catholic Christian.