Leaving my Casa Rural (excellent, by the way) I peruse the sky; totally overcast, with not a glimmer of hope anywhere. I have little choice today – I’ve got to get to the airport. Three possible routes however: easy, moderate, challenging. Of course I choose the challenging one ( a no-brainer, really) for the prospect of the scenery and …… the hills! After half an hour it starts raining – proper rain. But the scenery makes it all worthwhile.
I suddenly experience a vivid example of distorted perception: my eyes and brain tell me that the road is going downhill – my legs tell me that I’m definitely not. There’s a famous example of this in Snowdonia near Bedgellert. The valley is rising faster than the road. The brain is interpreting this, in the context of all its accumulated data, as the road falling. It’s actually going up, and still steeply. In relation to my blog this experience is serendipity indeed.
Our perceptions and behavioural responses are, of course relative. Every time it stops raining I think “wow, wonderful!” On sunny Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday I would have felt “Oh no – what miserable weather!”
I descend to Guenes and dive into the first cafe to escape from the rain.
Over my coffee, I have another “eureka” moment. The whole week I’ve been puzzling why my usually excellent directional sense has been completely out – not randomly, but by 180 degrees. I’ve got it! Another flaw of perception. When cycling at home, towards the sea is South, away from the sea Is North. Simple and straightforward. Over here, my brain can’t let this go. It can’t handle the fact that cycling away from the coast is South. Believe me, this “flawed fixation” has been powerful and disconcerting.
It should now be all downhill to Bilbao. No such luck! Another rollercoaster – but beautiful.
Beliefs. Why do we have them? How do they form? Ghosts; Arsenal Football Club; human good; human propensity to evil; spirit of the universe; magic; God?
Whatever beliefs we have will influence our decisions and behaviour. We must therefore ask whether they’re under our conscious control. We may feel that they are based purely on analytical deliberation. Yes, to an extent, but superimposed on our brain’s lifetime of processing millions of gigabytes of subconscious information, some of which might be flawed or biased.
Beliefs stem from our unique consciousness and help us navigate our world. There is much evidence to suggest that “belief” is good for brain health; it makes us happier, and we live longer. Beliefs become even more powerful when they are pooled to become tribal – a football crowd or a gang.
Do I believe in God?
Let’s consider this in stages. I recognise that my accumulated bubbles make me more likely to believe in God than many others: a church family and school; career in Catholic education etc.. As a scientist I know that the existence of God can’t be proved; I also know it can’t be disproved. Where does that leave me? I choose to believe in God – in hope.
Why? There’s an element of Pascal’s Wager: more to gain and less to lose. But also, and more importantly, I think it leads to a better life. I am happier. Perhaps one day I will have genuine (blind?) faith.
I descend to Bilbao and continue to the airport.
Distance travelled 32 miles
Elevation gain 2206 ft
Average speed 9.5 mph
To Dr. Hannah Critchlow, whose book “The Science of Fate” I have been reading, and which has informed parts of this blog.
To Stuart who serviced my bike in preparation for the trip. It’s been faultless.
To my sister, Geraldine for giving me a lift to and from the airport
To my children, who have kept me posted with news and gossip
To Mary, who has lifted my spirits by phoning twice a day to make sure I’m ok.
And to God, in whom I choose to believe, for keeping me safe (sometimes, against the odds!)