Your Viewpoint? It’s Probably Wrong…

June 21, 2016

A quick question; how much conviction do you have right here, right now, knowing that whatever path you’re on or whatever you’re doing right now is absolutely the right thing or right place to be?

If you answered that without a shred of doubt telling you otherwise, I’m impressed. You’re on the road, no doubt, to a life of relative tranquility and peace. Not one blighted or likely to be stained through continued self-analysis, second-guessing or mistrusting of the gut.

In other words: you’re a rarity.

Because being dead certain about anything, given the laws of nature and the existence of the universe, is, from what I’ve observed at least, something akin to madness. Absolute philosophies or belief-systems are products of fragile foundations. Scour the sources long enough and you’ll inevitably find contradictions and loopholes that bring that conviction down, forcing you to reshape your image of the world and yourself along with it.

This is why I avoid getting into political conversations anymore. Despite people’s best efforts to drag me into them.

A product of being overly-analytical, akin to questioning absolutely everything, is that it’s hard to fashion for yourself a solid, robust, structure of beliefs or identifications. Your way of navigating through the world, and steering clear of those conversations people want to have based on the belief that they have ‘the facts’, becomes an exercise in simply attempting to diffuse everything you can with humour.

My point here is that there are way too many permutations, complications, bias and omissions in the way information is presented to us. Thus meaning that anyone wishing to make an extreme statement, like ‘veganism being superior’ or ‘Spanish people being lazy’, are playing their own part in adding to the obfuscation of what might actually be true or not. Ask for any data, or actual evidence, and such reasoning begins to fall apart. Only that person’s fervent passion and emotional-investment to the idea is that which keeps it alive. And, for those people at least, that’s often enough to keep them clinging until they draw their last breath.

George Orwell has written about the fragility of this absolutism numerous times. It’s also a motif that runs through a lot of his work.

In Homage to Catalonia, a memoir that chronicles Orwell’s time spent in the ranks of the anti-fashist militia during the time of the Spanish Civil War, he’s aware of playing into that which I’ve already highlighted.

Struggling with the idea of moving his recounting of the events into the realm of ‘general acceptance’, through the means of writing a book, he placates the reader in the concluding chapter of the book when he writes, “It is difficult to be certain about anything except what you have seen with your own eyes, and consciously or unconsciously everyone writes as a partisan.”

Here Orwell hits on this idea of absolute truth. Maintaining that certainty and conviction should largely be reserved for that which is observable through the senses. Before also suggesting that writing too, puts things into murky water as it’s a vehicle immune to the trappings of bias.

But I’d also question the dependency on the senses too. What we witness or experience isn’t always true. That too is also a story we tell ourselves.