Resting Comfortably at the Bottom of the Comprehension PyramidPosted on 2013.09.04 at 00:00
Current Location: 67114
I had been thinking about the long-suffering fiancé in Orange is the new Black when I ran across a quote by Stephen Hawking the other day which read, “I have noticed that even those who assert that everything is predestined and that we can change nothing about it still look both ways before they cross the street.” As I thought about the brilliance behind his observation, and only because I had been thinking about the long-suffering fiancé in Orange is the new Black, it also reminded me of Tim Minchin when he sang, “I'm not undervaluing what we've got when I say that given the role chaos inevitably plays in the inherently flawed notion of "fate," it's obtuse to deduce that I've found my soulmate at the age of seventeen. It's just mathematically unlikely that at a university in Perth, I happened to stumble on the one girl on Earth specifically designed for me.” Fate, as a line of thought however, was not foremost in my mind at the time. In fact it wasn't even running parallel though I admit to being amused when it forked that direction. No, specifically I was thinking about the long-suffering fiancé in Orange is the new Black when he made his astonishingly ignorant statement,
“...suppose, theoretically, that someone she loved was [incarcerated] with her, someone she had history with; someone who could understand her life in there in a way that I'll never be able to. It would be devastating to think that that person could give her something that I can't. It would be a betrayal.”
As I toyed with different ways of introducing the entire concept as ignorance without actually using the word "ignorant" (I've known people to get easily offended at that term being directed at them) and double-checking that I wasn't simply disagreeing with his statement as a matter of opinion, I was further mired by own experiences in which I would state something factual about myself which was argued with; "If I could, I would eat Mexican food for every meal."
"No you wouldn't."
"I prefer vanilla ice cream."
"No you don't."
"I think our values ought to change in support of new evidence which invalidates our old beliefs."
"No one thinks that way."
Apparently, I've discovered some people find the line between fact and opinion rather blurry...
I suppose believing something along the lines of `immunizations cause autism` despite the overwhelming body of evidence to the contrary could be considered a difference of opinion rather than ignorance - then again when one is disputing a mountain of proof with the counter-argument, "Nuh-uh" its hard to vote in favor of opinion. (There are those who are unaware an "argument" is NOT a request for battle, so tread carefully). But when I outline my own beliefs, goals, likes and dislikes - where they originated and how they've mutated over a period of time - and someone disagrees with that? Just to be clear, that's not opinion. Its opinion's monotheistic homophobic cousin. To be kind, we'll call him, Ig. That way, people won't react emotionally to a word which means something completely different than they think it means, which is, incidentally, also detailed in Ig's broad coverage policy. While I'm tickled when something someone doesn't understand means, "something someone doesn't understand," I haven't yet found a good way to explain how counter-productive it is to negatively react to something not yet understood. I've tried using the word, "ignorant" to explain the phenomenon, which was, given the nature of the issue, itself counter-productive. See what I have to deal with? But this is getting ridiculous, even by my standards.
To get back on topic, I was running through some possible titles after the first couple of paragraphs, frustrated that it was so difficult to conceptualize stupidity for other's digestion, and thought it humorous to incorporate one of my favorite illustrations, the hierarchical pyramid! So let it be written, so let it be done. Behold! In glad adoration, THE COMPREHENSION PYRAMID (which was a first-draft blending of the pyramids of argument, denial, and bloom's taxonomy). What I particularly enjoy about authoring my own is its clear, unequivocal demarcations. While many of us may believe we've transcended lower levels of similar pyramids based upon ambiguous definitions or a subjective rating system (and a healthy dose of self-deception), its pretty hard to run from this one. I myself continue to reach for the brass ring of pure evaluation without actually ever reaching it. I know people who can rebut flawlessly, but do not count myself among them. Sadly, I also know the trolls which haunt the bottom three echelons, most of whom believe they sit atop it.
Which brings up another wonderful point - what I think I am. People tell me all the time I think I am always right. I readily admit that nothing could be further from the truth - I beg and seek holes in my own theories and logic to discover ways to strengthen them. It would be stupid to come up with a theory based on a feeling or a possibly misinterpreted action then relentlessly bind oneself to it without further input. So yeah, I always assume I'm wrong. Yet someone is always right there to argue the point with me - to tell me what I think. Has anyone picked up on the irony of that yet?
Currently, the only way I know to deduce what someone thinks is through their behavior - and I've uncovered some fascinating (and by fascinating I mean completely antithetical to reason) beliefs. Once intent is gleaned (usually greed or fear though outside myself and a handful of emotionally mature people, I haven't met anyone who readily cops to those) a fairly high-resolution picture emerges. Some would argue irrefutable.
At any rate, in this graphic, I can at least say to those who embrace Ig as a hard-nosed and inflexible belief system, that I think I comprehend more than they do, as I point to the very clear and unambiguous levels, for even astonishingly non-thinking people cannot misunderstand that stating, "Nuh-uh" differs greatly from, "Presents supportive contradictions with reason and evidence."
Anyway, all this inherent frustration on both sides (people who believe logic is akin to witchcraft admittedly frustrates me) got me to reevaluate the way I looked at the long-suffering boyfriend's statement. Thinking back to Kathryn Schulz's TED TALK, "On Being Wrong" reminded me of the attachment to our own rightness. First we think someone is ignorant, then we think they're stupid, then we think they're evil. If the long-suffering boyfriend feels devastating betrayal because of some superlatively unrealistic shit, then I would have to defer to ignorance being his sin. Perhaps his experiences have differed so wildly from my own that even while bantering with his buddies, getting advice from his parents, hitting on the bartender, or having philosophical conversations with the NPR radio host, he's never considered the astronomical improbability that a person should get all their needs met all the time from just one other person. (See how I just did that?)
And that's just ignorance. Stupidity and malevolence are far worse, and though it scares me to admit it, probably just as prevalent. While I love and embrace Kathryn Schulz's idea behind the deathgrip many of us seem to have on our own myopic opinions, she only had it half right; some people are stupid. Some people are out for their own self-interests no matter the cost. They are all resting comfortably at the bottom of the comprehension pyramid.