We all adhere to a belief system

Below is Whisper #17 from my latest book, 48 WHISPERS, which is a collection of photographs and personal meditations created across a decade of travel to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the surrounding northern plains. 

One morning in London, while doing research for my second book, I shared breakfast with a Colombian-born advertising executive, Jose Miguel Sokoloff. Over English tea Jose described the marketing campaign he had developed that enticed rebel forces in his native land to put down their arms and come home. In the process, he said something profound.

“We all adhere to a belief system; otherwise, we don’t have a strategy for dealing with the world.”

I soon found myself reflecting. What are the fundamentals of my own belief system, and how do they impact my view of the world? Is my personal narrative real, flawed, or both? Perhaps bringing change into the world is not about reorienting the views of others but rather refining my own lines of sight.

The Seeds of Peace Camp is located on a lake near my home in Maine. Each summer Arab and Jewish teenagers from the Middle East spend three weeks together at this rustic retreat. The program’s pedagogy has produced a powerful saying: “We all have about half the story right.”

Cross-examining one’s own belief system can be unsettling. For America it would mean acknowledging that Columbus did not discover a new world; people already lived here. For the Lakota it would mean acknowledging their own expansionist past, where they too conquered others and built an empire.

Change is created by learning to question your own narrative, not someone else’s. Recognizing you have a belief system is the key to transcending it.