ehowton (ehowton) wrote,


The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get from it, but what they become by it.
~ John Ruskin

Opinions and beliefs fascinate me. No, that's not quite right. People who hold opinions and beliefs fascinate me. Setting aside for a moment our cold-dead-hands-grip on our desire to be "right" no matter the cost, why do we even care? Why do we have "convictions" at all? So here we all are, on this earth, perceiving things individually, and one person decides how they perceive something is the only right way to perceive something. That part - why does that part happen?

I think a lot of times those of us who don't seek truth forget what opinions and beliefs are. We use them to prop us up when we don't know, but we forget that they are nothing more than unsubstantiated best-guesses. They're placeholders for data - nothing more. But that's not really the fascinating part. The part which boggles this citizen is our inability to take in and compare new data when it conflicts with those beliefs.

I was recently visiting with some retired State Troopers who were "born again" and while I appreciate their enthusiasm for living a good life and trying to make sense of the darker side of human nature they were undoubtedly inundated with, their assertion that people who don't accept the "truth" of the bible being the written word of God set off all my critical thinking alarms. By definition an opinion is "a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty" and a belief is, "confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof." When I make gentle suggestions that other people's perceptions may differ I'm often accused of trying to get someone to change their minds to believe what I believe. Nothing could be further from the truth!

All I seek is understanding. Understanding others and understanding myself. The acknowledgement that our beliefs are based on best-guesses of how we see the world around us, and that we all see different things. That said, since learning about cognitive distortion I've discovered there is actually a right and a wrong, wrong being a conclusion based upon logical fallacies. An argument isn't a fight, its a different conclusion constructed from a series of logical propositions. To this end I've heard the overly-opinionated make the baffling statement, "I'm not going to argue this with you." The only ones (to date) I've heard say this are those who have no plans to accept new, possibly contradictory data or from open-minded individuals who know their side won't be heard. Whichever side of the fence they are on, there are those who are either unwilling, or unable to process it.

I'm not perfect - far from it - but without a desire to understand one another, we act on assumptions which will harm us in the long term. Ignorance as it turns out, is far from bliss. And there are always, at a minimum, two sides to every story. It shouldn't be about picking sides, rather understanding both points of view.

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