Now more than ever, we're living in a world where opposing beliefs can be explosive. Which is why it's important to hear people out — no matter how foreign their worldview may seem. So, long before there was a conspiracy theorist in the White House (sorry, I went there), I boarded a cruise ship with a clandestine group of conspiracy theorists that held court for a week in the ship's convention hall. There, I spoke to a woman who claims to have gone to Mars, a man who sells wishing boxes, and an expert on crop circles, just to name a few. I was skeptical about our ability to get along, and about my ability create a cohesive narrative that represented our differing viewpoints. But I was proven wrong. It wasn't that I started to believe in the theories themselves. Rather, I began to understand the basic humanity, the bond of feeling like an outsider, the interest in the sheer power of belief, and the passion the theorists held for their given fields — even if I didn't feel the same way.
Onboard the ConspiraSea Cruise, I found myself face to face with a group of individuals whom much of society has deemed totally nuts. I danced with them, played games with them, dined with them, made friends with them, and I even argued with them. The result was a better understanding of what it means to believe. That, and the chance to hold my own beliefs up against a group's beliefs — perhaps ironically, as these individuals do exactly this regularly in the outside world. It all resulted in a more strong-willed empathy to defend the right for others to believe and evangelize what they hold to be true to them (as long as others aren't getting swindled, tricked, or hurt). And I came out of the experience with a better understanding of what it means to belong. I got to watch a group of unique and disparate minds find community in the unlikeliest of places: onboard a gigantic cruise ship, dwarfed by the sky and sea.
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