I’m Trying…

There will be disagreements between people, because we are separate entities, each with free will. We all intellectually know this, yet we still seem surprised when confronted with the “disagreement”.

Perhaps it is because, sometimes, the disagreement is in areas where none should exist. It is one thing to have an “opinion” about something, but quite impossible when it is about something factual. “Factual” uses time honored tradition, and science, to form the basis of truth.

The problem is that truth tends to be “one-sided” and we have learned that many individuals, and cultures, have twisted “truth” to fulfill their own narratives. Unfortunately, even logic has not always been the “truth-teller”.

It is the primary goal of the philosopher to examine truth, by asking the question “What is truth?” The explanation can be simple and complex, but largely based upon what is observable, measured, and tested, with repeated consistent results.

Example: what goes up, must come down. This has been completely true until recently. With rockets that are made to escape Earth’s gravity, it is no longer true, with that exception.

In someways, stating the earth is mostly flat was also true for hundreds of thousands of observable years. It is also no longer true, by scientific calculations, but also by recent photographs from space, showing the somewhat spherical shape of the Earth.

The list of previous “truths” being changed because of logic should be encouraging. The problem is that logic doesn’t always allow thinking to be altered.

One of my favorite words is “shibboleth”. It’s one of those archaic words that is in danger of being eliminated. It describes an idea, or custom, of a long held belief in something that is no longer important.

The problem only arises if it is also “true.” In general, we tend to believe in our “progressive” nature. Given time, our sense of logic, and our science, tends to point out “shibboleths”, and erase them. But what if the shibboleth is gravity?

Sometimes we call these things the “inconvenient” truth. It may be true, but the baggage it comes with is uncomfortable.

So why did we hold on to our belief in “flat earth” for so long? In part, because the science was too complicated, but mostly because our natural observation was too compelling. “Just use your eyes, you can see that the Earth is flat, and if you walk far enough, you will fall off the edge!”

It does challenge our ability to observe correctly, but there may be another more compelling challenge. It is embarrassing to be wrong. Even more embarrassing to be wrong for a lifetime, incredibly embarrassing to be wrong for generations.

The wall that is almost impossible to tear down, is structurally supported by “it has always been that way”. Each age of “renaissance” is encouraged by the rapid acceptance of newly discovered “truth”. Although Copernicus and Galileo did have their problems. Maybe that’s why a Renaissance is so rare.

So where does that leave us today? It is obvious that opinions matter. What is not obvious is that opinions are mostly based upon words, and in recent years words have been credited with creating reality.

I’m old enough to remember when world hunger was a worthy problem to solve. One influencer from the 1970s attempted to solve world hunger, not by improved farming, but by reframing the problem with words. Werner Erhard, founder of est Training, also founded The Hunger Project in 1971. His founding statement, “The End of Starvation: Creating an Idea Whose Time Has Come”. The goal was to end world hunger in 25 years.

This may have been the big start of creating a reality with words. Erhard mentioned that our drive to put a man on the moon started with a statement by President John Kennedy. Erhard believed that his document would be the basis of action to solve world hunger. The world is still hungry after 50 years from 1971.

Solutions do come from ideas, and ideas can be framed in words, but it takes more than words to develop sustainable action. And, point of fact, we did get to the moon, but we have not been back.

The most pressing concern today is dealing with equity. The solution so far is based in linguistics. One important lynchpin is in accepting that male humans can be self-created into female humans. This is complicated by our cultural desire to be compassionate and accepting.

Being male, but seeing oneself (feeling oneself) as female is a cultural problem. In the attempt to solve that problem, the use of words was applied. The problem is that science determines male vs. female. Perception does not change facts. Words can be used for a compassionate solution, but that must be negotiated with good will, and good logic.

Establishing protocols and policies that force definitions does not help. Although it may create a shibboleth that some future age must deal with.

How are we to address issues? Is it rational to make every effort in matters that concern vast majorities, yet ignore minority issues? Is it numbers that control our actions?

If we are faced with an imminent attack by a foreign nation, is it reasonably to become a jingoistic nationalist for the duration? Small choices in our national ethos determine the kind of country worth defending.

All this is true, and yet often distracting from major important goals. Can we multitask?

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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