I’ve been thinking lately about a status I read on Facebook. The status said, “Sometimes I ask myself why I’m always so confident in my opinions, since I change them so much. So far, myself has not deigned to reply. That guy has some explaining to do.” It’s a little narcissistic that I found it so thought-provoking, since it’s my own status; but regardless, a response has finally struck me: “I must have been a child flogged left-handedly”.
Granted, to a good, conservative “well-regulated mind,” no child should be left unflogged. But “a child flogged left-handedly,” you know (as we learned from the good Dr. Poe), “had better be left unflogged. The world revolves from right to left. It will not do to whip a baby from left to right. If each blow in the proper direction drives an evil propensity out, it follows that every thump in an opposite one knocks its quota of wickedness in.”*
My case is similar to that of poor Toby Dammit in the story: if every argument and sign of opposition would tend to soften up a good right-handed psyche, it follows that it would have the opposite effect in my own backwards-wired brain. Somewhere in my genome must be some genetic mutation that says, “Always strengthen your resolve in the face of unreasoned opposition. Don’t cave! Don’t mollify! State your opinions more aggressively! Become more radical!”
I’m being a little facetious, of course, but it’s true that mere brute opposition, when my mind is convinced of something, always seems to have the opposite of its intended effect. I’ve always sought consistency. I’ve always worked as hard as I could to press things to their logical conclusion. And when I feel a sudden uptick in opposition, not accompanied by logical reasons I can understand, I think my mind starts to say, “There must be something pretty good around here or else people wouldn’t be trying to scare me away. I’d better explore further.”
I think the secret to being successful is spinning everything so that it seems like a triumph in your own mind (one of my many life mottoes). So how do I put a positive spin on this bullheaded propensity of mine? Well, for one thing, I don’t think I would have gotten this far or seen the new ideological horizons that the eye of my mind has found joy in gazing upon if I didn’t have enough innate stubbornness to keep pressing on no matter what. It’s only been a matter of trying to press ideas to their logical conclusions and never being satisfied to overlook inconsistencies that’s led me through life. Sure, it’s meant a lot of turmoil, but I’ve stumbled upon some beautiful ways of looking at the universe along the way, so I have no regrets.
In past correspondence, a friend recommended to me a book by Thomas Kuhn called, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” In Kuhn’s recounting of scientific history he sees times of revolution in scientific worldview preceded by times of general dissatisfaction with the current models, as more and more acquired evidence becomes more and more difficult to fit in. It wasn’t really the point of the book, but when I read it, it felt to me like I had always gone through the same cycles of ideological revolutions in my own personal history.
I was talking to Nicole the other day, and she expressed it more helpfully. She said it felt like we’ve been on different boats, doing our best to patch up all the logical holes and inconsistencies we’ve seen in them. No one wants to be boatless on a big wide sea, so we’ve worked as hard as our little minds could work to get everything to fit together and make sense in our current worldview. But there have just come times when the holes are so big that we feel our boat capsizing and are forced to look for another. We couldn’t stay afloat in our Independent Fundamental Baptist boat so we jumped to a Protestant Reformed boat. But it feels like that one’s sinking too.
I’m not sure where (or if) I’ll find my next boat. I know I haven’t found it yet. I’m still out floating in a very wide sea. But you know what? I couldn’t be happier about it all. I rowed my boat until it fell apart, I’ve explored seas of thought where few travelers before me have dared to venture. It’s time for me to grab whatever flotsam I can find and paddle myself to my next destination. I can already almost smell the tropical scent of some happy little island and I laugh at the waves of confusion and the burning sun of self-doubt on my back as I push myself onward. This is when I feel alive.
*(I excavated this nugget of wisdom from ‘Never Bet the Devil Your Head,’ one of the favorite stories of my Poe-obssessed teen years.)