Contradictions


She used to say, “Sometimes a coin has more than two sides.” I never gave much thought to that adage until much later. As I observed human behavior I noticed that most humans consciously or unconsciously pick a side without thoughtful consideration of the other[s]. In doing so, whenever defense of another side is presented, humans often become defensive or they close their mind. Sometimes they do this as if acceptance or even acknowledgment of the contradiction of their particular view would rip the very fabric of the time-space continuum resulting in the cataclysmic destruction of the universe.

In the movie, “A Few Good Men”, actor Jack Nicholson shouted in court, “You can’t handle the truth”. To that, I say, most human can’t handle contradictions. Please note what Napoleon Bonaparte stated: “I am not angered when contradicted; I seek to be enlightened.” Then there was Ralph Waldo Emerson who asserted: “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” As you can see, Napoleon viewed contradiction of what he said or believed as an opportunity to learn and Emerson did not take contradictions to his views personally. In those regards, most people are neither Napoleon nor Emerson.

The subject matter in which there may be contradictions is essentially irrelevant. No matter the subject, be it religion, politics, pets, family, shoes, flowers, entertainers, movies, music, weather, rainbows, female/males relationships, soap, sports, the meaning of life or the meaning of paper towels – most humans are uncomfortable when their opinions, views or beliefs are contradicted. There seems to be this almost innate or near-genetic need to have one’s position verified or affirmed as opposed to being challenged. There is often a knee-jerk resistance to even look at a possible different side of the coin.

I have lived and paid attention long enough to have developed my own ethos, namely: There is no idea or belief I so dearly cherish so as to shield it from rigorous scrutiny or thoughtful challenge. There is no idea or belief I esteem so highly that I will not alter it or abandon it – sacrifice it in favor of standing even closer to the truth. Stated more succinctly, I hate being wrong; I detest it. In fact, I abhor being wrong so much that I desperately want to know when I am so that I can stop. And if it turns out that I am not wrong, I am still better for it having experienced a challenge to my position.

To be certain, each of us is flawed, frail and sometimes foul in our own peculiar ways; there are no exceptions – not one. But here I speak of the common reaction to contradictions – the comfort found in remaining unenlightened, in the dark or even stupid. Or the childish reaction to blindly defend even the indefensible. Either phenomena I utterly disdain. To be wrong makes one no less a person than the one who is right or to be right makes one no more a person than the one who is wrong if and only if one respects contradictions.

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Published in: on February 14, 2016 at 11:09 PM  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Your mother was a wise woman and a great behavioral scientists.

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

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  2. Unfortunately, I discovered very late in life that what frequently passed for “study” was merely blind recitation. Consideration of your column is a way to train a mind to “think”. Your blog has turned into a personal course in philosophy for me. Thank you kindly for your insights into the human condition.

    Like


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