Learning from Everyone

Posted on July 6, 2007 by Robert Ringer


I recently received a nasty e-mail from someone who implied he had read my book Action! Nothing Happens Until Something Moves.  He lashed out at me with a vengeance and resorted to some pretty nasty name-calling.

What was he so ticked off about?  Would you believe it was because, in the first chapter of the book, I briefly discuss my belief that there is an infinite source of power in the universe that no one fully understands?

When I say no one, that includes the most cerebral scientists on the planet.  The most remarkable discovery that resulted from the launching of the Hubble Space Telescope is that not only is all matter in the universe moving away from all other matter at lightning speeds, those speeds are actually accelerating.

As the top scientists on the Hubble Telescope project explain it, what this means is that there is an invisible power in the universe that they simply do not understand.  Further, they point out that this unknown power source is greater than the gravitational pull of all matter in the universe combined!  So much for the collapsing-universe theory.

In Action! I subjectively refer to this invisible force as the Conscious Universal Power Source, but also point out that people use a variety of other words to describe it, the most common being “God.”

Recognizing that we live in an age where we are silenced by self-appointed censors who worship at the altar of political correctness, I went out of my way to begin this brief section of my book with the following words:  “To discuss the concept of God is a precarious endeavor, at best.  Since so many people have such strong views on the subject, it is guaranteed to cause a lot of anger.  Let’s face it, a significant percentage of the world’s population is not rational when it comes to discussing God.”

I then devote roughly seven pages to the subject, with most of my discussion revolving around the examination of four possibilities with regard to the existence or nonexistence of God.  These include quietism, atheistic randomness, divine fatalism, and humanistic self-determination.

Sadly, today those who dare ponder important issues and speak their opinions are often reviled.  Sensitive subjects protected under the political-correctness umbrella include race, illegal aliens, gay marriage, the environment, and abortion, to name but a few.

For quite sometime, however, God has been making a run at the top spot on the politically incorrect list, which is why I knew I was entering dangerous territory when I delved into the subject.  I did it, albeit in a totally nonreligious way, because I felt it was necessary in order to make a crucial point.

The point I’m referring to is that common sense dictates that there must be some kind of universal power source not only from which human beings draw their power, but from which all matter in the universe draws its power as well.

This is so self-evident to me that it borders on axiomatic.  Nevertheless, fairness compels me to concede that when I use the term Conscious Universal Power Source, I can understand why an atheist might have a problem with the word “conscious.”  Which is fine.  I respect everyone’s right to his opinion.  I should, however, add that an in-depth discussion of what is meant by the word “conscious” might lead us to the conclusion that the question itself is one of semantics.

In fact, Viktor Frankl (author of Man’s Search for Meaning) once opined that at some future date he believed the differences between atheists and religionists would become indistinguishable.  In his view, the only difference between an atheist and religionist is that an atheist is merely a person who, when he is talking to God, believes he is talking to himself.  In fairness, I would concede that an atheist could justifiably argue that the opposite might also be true — that a religionist is merely someone who, when he is talking to himself, believes he is talking to God.

The bottom line is that an overwhelming majority of the world’s population believes there is a source of universal, infinite power that we are all plugged into.  Further, it seems logical and obvious to me that the best way to access this power source is through action.

Clichéd as it may sound, some of my best friends are atheists.  In fact, one, in particular, is probably the most spiritual person I have ever known, and I like to kid him about it.  He’s good-natured and ethical to the core.

But “fundamentalist” atheists are different.  As one of them put it to me years ago, “To even consider the possibility of a Higher Being would destroy the very foundation upon which I have built my entire life.”  Such closed-mindedness is about as unscientific as one can get.

Which brings me to the real point of this article.  If you’re interested in continually working to better your existence, you should avoid the mistake of disregarding everything a person writes or says just because you disagree with him on one or more issues.  I long ago recognized that I can learn something from everyone with whom I come in contact, no matter on how many issues I disagree with him.

Even if I dislike the underlying ideology of an author, I have found very few books that didn’t teach me something of value.  Adolf Hitler was not exactly one of my favorite historical characters, but I still learned a lot from Mein Kampf.  Ditto the Communist Manifesto, even though ideologically I am a libertarian-centered conservative.  At the very least, reading books like these educates one as to how the minds of demented people work.

Rational self-interest requires that you be a sponge when it comes to learning.  I will gladly take any knowledge or useful ideas I can get from any person, book, or situation that comes my way.  To close your mind to information just because you don’t like someone’s point of view on one subject or another is irrational.  And to become angry about it is nothing short of childish.

Someday, the political-correctness monster may be slain and we might all be free to say what we really believe — without being ostracized or vilified.  But, in the meantime, there is nothing stopping you from acquiring all the knowledge and wisdom you can get from any and all sources and situations.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.