No one has a claim on reality. “Facts” don’t matter without acknowledging this.
This has been a really interesting year so far. We have called it the “age of fake news”, “alternative facts”, where to parties on both sides of the fence, it means that we are surrounded by impositions against a “true reality”.
What is a fact, anyway? What is it? The “Theory” of Evolution? The “Law” of Gravity? What are facts but the repeated results of a hypothesis proven by “evidence” that sometimes gets overturned? Isn’t it strange how news and facts are now being framed as if they have always had objective, static states, when once upon a time, statisticians would disclose their error intervals, scientists would list out their uncertainties, and even mathematicians would admit to the incompleteness of their proofs and disprove past mathematical — ah, what a refreshing word this will be — ideas.
If we are going to tout around facts like we have a claim to understanding it, let’s make sure we understand ideas: their power, their rise, how some ideas become our facts and the conditions that constitute their importance.
What about this idea?
“We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.”
If we see hate, it is because we are hateful. If we see love, it is because we are loving.
If we see loss, it is because we are losing. If we see abundance, it is because we are abundant.
Let’s think about that. Let it bask.
The problem with fighting with other people’s world views by saying that they pale compared to your own world views is that it is both invalidating and persuasively ineffective, and when we are embedded in a bittersweet system of democracy that requires that we work together and, more importantly, persuade each other in order to gain a majority vote, then we need to stop being so incredibly ineffective about it.
Assuming that you — yes you, marching in your Women’s Marches, wearing your Make America Great Again hats — assuming that you are not equally subject to the limitations of subjective perception as your listener implies that you are somehow a more superior HUMAN compared to your listener, as if they are not as Human as You are, as if they are “inherently inferior”. This is not only disrespectful to your listener, but as it stands, at best it risks seeming logically incoherent and at worst it demonstrates your own internal hypocrisy (and hence, failed grasp on reality).
Because if it is true that we believe in the premise that “all human beings are created equal,” (or, at the very least, that we need to pretend/assume that this is so, given how our democratic system works), then we need to act as if no one human is more superior than another human, so it cannot be that you are somehow Superhuman compared to your listener. It cannot be*. Yet, abutting that you have a grasp on what is really going on while they do not is the premise of one’s inherent superiority over others.
(*= but, in case you are in fact a Superhuman, please let us know so we can study your unique biological advancements!)
Instead of the message, “you are wrong, I am right”, or “they are wrong, we are right”, the internally consistent message must instead be:
“I think that it is your idea that <insert underlying assumption of your listener’s given statement or posed question here that you think exists>.”
We can also substitute the word idea above with view, theory, hypothesis, model, or paradigm.
Only when we frame our discussions in terms of ideas do we separate attack of the Person from attack of the View.
Only then do we stay internally consistent that You, the speaker, are no less or more worthy as a human being than your listener.
Only then do we lessen the shaking impact of your words from an imposed, invalidating “coercion of reality” (sound familiar, guys? Don’t we say that about a certain someone or group of people, too?) to simply an invitation to entertain a new point of view.
Only when we explicitly acknowledge the speaker and the listener’s complete freedom of choice to accept or reject your idea/perspective, and your equally existent vulnerability to coming to very false ideas yourself, only then do facts matter to us. When they feel less like knives and more like lighthouses guiding us in our darkness, does the pursuit of science, knowledge, personal improvement, and so forth matter to us.
If it doesn’t matter to us, it might as well not exist…
We are already witnessing the counterproductive, opposition inducing results of thinking any otherwise. It turns out that when we take on the post that certain facts do not matter, instead of appearing enlightening, smart, or superior, we merely seem crazy to everyone else who does not agree.
So I encourage you to think about this, and then go on out there, talk and share perspectives, and equally acknowledge your own vulnerability and weakness to not see reality for what it is.
No, wait, not your own vulnerability — but your own INABILITY to see reality for what it is.
The big spoiler alert here is that no one knows reality for what it is. No one human, anyway. The human species is honestly either too unevolved, stupid, ungodly, or somehow limited to know the things which we do not know we do not know (that’s right, I said “we do not know” twice. These are otherwise known as objects in our blindspots). What is undiscovered (to us) never enters our own mental models or paradigms. And we cannot blame other people for not knowing what they had not yet discovered. We just can’t blame them for being human.
Now, go on now, go and tell them: how do you also not see reality for what it is? How are you equally not able to gain access to a hold on the objective truth?
I believe that the most effectively persuasive arguments to be made here in 2017 is that you, me, and everyone else has, in fact, no fucking idea what is Really Going On. Let’s try and sit comfortably instead in this long train ride that we will call Uncertainty and Questioning. Let’s focus our attentions on Questions instead of seeking claim on the Answers, including the big initial questions:
“How did we get here?”
“What did we expect that was different from what happened?”
“Why did we have those expectations?”
These questions can help us get at the places on our maps we have not yet discovered, to know what we didn’t know was true at the time and place we were at. So that eventually, we can begin on:
“What are our choices?”
“What do we do now?”
“How do we move forward?”
“Where is it that we want to go?”
May the number of questions we have temporarily over-shower the number of answers we claim to possess, so that we really think long, hard, and deep about what we all didn’t see, until now. Maybe if we dig deep enough, we all discover something new to each of us and can begin to live with perceptions that are closer to reality than when we started.
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The above was inspired by the preparation and discussions that followed a talk I gave on Monday about Personal Paradigms and Paradigm Shifts.