Daily Encouragement: Day 288

Adapted from Handbook to Spiritual Growth


A paradigm is a way of seeing based on implicit or explicit rules that shape one’s perspective. A paradigm shift takes place when the rules or boundaries change, so that we no longer see things from the same perspective; when the rules change, our way of seeing is altered.

The most celebrated example of a paradigm shift is the Copernican revolution in astronomy. Until the time of Copernicus, the reigning paradigm was Ptolemy’s geocentric system; the sun and planets were thought to orbit the earth. For centuries, astronomers held to this Ptolemaic way of viewing the solar system in spite of the fact that a number of observations did not fit this model. But instead of questioning the paradigm, astronomers invented complicated theories of epicycles to explain why some planets appeared to stop, go backward for a while, and then resume their original direction. Copernicus’ breakthrough was the realization that all of these observations make perfect sense by switching from a geocentric to a heliocentric (sun-centered) view of the sun and planets—in other words, we do not live in a terrestrial system, but in a solar system. Copernicus published his views posthumously because he realized that this radical shift would meet with a hostile response, especially by those in the religious establishment.

In a similar way, the temporal and eternal perspectives are competing paradigms of life. We can live as if this world is all there is or we can view our earthly existence as a brief pilgrimage designed to prepare us for eternity.

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