Convincing Ourselves

One of the biggest revelations I have ever had in life was that I was capable of being wrong. Not only can I be wrong, I can even be wrong about things I am sure about. Many of us might say that we could recognize when we are wrong or change our minds if we are proven wrong, but the reality is, most of us can’t.

In most cases we define our universe almost entirely by our personal experiences and this is highly dangerous. A series of unfortunate events can lead to you becoming bigoted. If we are slighted by a member of a minority, for instance, on more then one occasion we might shape our entire universe in a different way based on these experiences.

We are vicious about defending our experiences and the opinions we generate from them. We are so aggressive about it, that we will often surround ourselves in people that agree with us just so that we can believe we are right. It’s much easier, and satisfying, to surround ourselves with people that agree with us. We would rather ramble on for hours on end in agreement, not accomplishing anything, then to create purposeful friction which benefits not only ourselves but the entire race as a whole. The examples of this behavior are plentiful; the biggest being religion and politics. Outside of religion and politics you have major and minor social groups that conform to certain ideas or philosophies.

Without compromise, objectivity, introspection, and debate there can be no progress.

Hitler had some bad experiences with some Jewish people and decided it would be better if they didn’t exist. Ayn Rand witnessed the effects of extreme socialism and decided that the complete opposite has to be the answer. Karl Marx witnessed the distress of the proletariat and decided the only way to make everyone happier was through a complete abolishing of free enterprise.  It’s very common for us to be hyperbolic. When something doesn’t work many of us assume the opposite is the answer and we rarely stop to think about the center.

What is at stake is everything. Without compromise, objectivity, introspection, and debate there can be no progress. Elolight will slip away from us.

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5 thoughts on “Convincing Ourselves

  1. thegreatantagonizer

    Ironically, I have slowly recognized the exact other side of the coin, in more recent times. I have always been ready to change my opinion. I do debate my side strongly, but when I start to see that the other person is making better points, I’m always excited about the prospect that the other side may have a better opinion that I can adopt (and seem smarter).

    Yet, I have realized that many people are not the same. Actually, in my personal life, I have had people change my opinion, and I have changed other peoples’ opinions. However, on the Internet, it seems like there are so many people dead set in their opinions and no matter what you throw at them, they will not even consider your opinion to be a better answer.

    So, people around me growing up, tended to be like me. People I meet on the Internet are more likely to be close-minded. Are people from certain areas, that I hadn’t been able to communicate with before the Internet, more close-minded? Does this Internet foster close-mindedness (I hope not!). I really don’t know.

    Reply
  2. Tincup

    Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and believer in the Stoic Philosophy said, “Remember that all is opinion”. Perhaps you have read some of the stoics and their belief how to become more objective. I enjoyed reading The Mediations of Marcus Aurelius, but I am not quite sure I could follow the Stoic philosophy. It seems a little too cold and emotionless for my taste:)

    Reply
  3. Jonathan Wagner Post author

    The idea of stoicism is similar to ideas in Buddhism and this is to stop suffering. The majority of philosophies and religions will proclaim this self serving directive as the proof of their authenticity.

    I disagree that a focus of humanity should be to remove suffering entirely, without suffering you would not have the opposite and you would also not have evolution. This is not to say I support everyone going around killing each other, however, mild forms of suffering are necessary to move you from one objective to the next. The need to improve oneself, change others, and evolve are all rooted in suffering.

    If all we did was eat and meditate, the world would get boring pretty fast. Alas, the removal of suffering will lead to the suffering of one’s purpose.

    Reply

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