I might be wrong?
Everything I believe to be true, I believe to be true. True-true. Definitely, definitively, demonstrably not-false. But does everybody else? How arrogant am I?
First, does everybody else? No. (I could stop here.) Clearly, people have different beliefs. And in case it bears typing, people believe their beliefs to be true. In my less-honorable moments, I conclude that everyone else is wrong, then I go get a snack. But if I’m honest (gulp), I admit that everyone else’s viewpoint might just have as much legitimacy as mine.
I read about personality types over the weekend. I learned that my wife is a warm-blooded human and I am a heartless logic-bot. (ENFJ and INTP/J, respectively.) My outlook on the world and my synthesis of it are built on a framework of comprehension and proficiency; ideas are the means, knowledge is the end, understanding is the vehicle and it must be driven precisely. Someone with a developed capacity to, you know, feel, might first consider people, employing a wacky skill like empathy to learn about and interact with the world around her. Not so, me. I’m told there are other personality types, too, and I suppose they might be valid, as well.
To be clear, I don’t think I’m all-knowing. And it’s not that I’m close-minded. I’m open to any idea — so long as it checks out. I have no problem saying I don’t know. I don’t know lots. (Here comes a wrinkle.) But even that knowledge — that I know what I know and that my knowledge is limited — are beliefs to which I hold firmly. But what if my knowledge is faulty? Moreover, not everyone, it turns out, approaches life in terms of cerebral convictions. Then what’s true? We’re playing the same game but with different rules. It’s less “I say white, you say black” and more “I say white, you do somersaults.”
Right or Different
In that book last weekend I read the words “intellectual snob” and it stung a bit. After all, the snob is the only one who thinks he’s right. In everyone else’s eyes, he merely overvalues his own opinion. So I got to thinking (’cause that’s my jam): My beliefs, my knowledge, are based on having right understanding. But “right” deceives if it applies the inverse to all alternatives: wrong. If that were the case, anyone with different wiring, anyone who primarily approaches the universe in a way other than mine would be wasting her time.
Clearly, it’s a trap. I need to leave room for approaches — nay, people — who operate on different terms, for whom logic isn’t a primary consideration. No, I don’t understand these people. Yes, I have much to learn from them.
I don’t think I’m describing subjective reality in a universal sense. But I am learning that what’s true for me may not be true for everyone else. (You learned this when you were seven.) In the universal, I think there must be absolute truth. But in the particular, everyone has a different lens and unique wiring, so each person’s experience with the universe must be valid. And true.
Then again, I might be wrong.
“Once your mind is inhabited with a certain view of the world, you will tend to only consider instances proving you to be right. Paradoxically, the more information you have, the more justified you will feel in your views.”
— Nassim Taleb
“God is urging me to come home, to enter into his light, and to discover there that, in God, all people are uniquely and completely loved.”
— Henri J.M. Nouwen
Originally published at www.jaybryantjones.com on October 27, 2015.