I will admit that the debate I’ve been having in my mind seems younger than my age, but it’s a tempest in a teapot, and where do you go to release these squalls? The blog, of course! I have, at this juncture of my life, the welcome dilemma of being friends with people of widely varying world views. It’s always creeped me out to spend too much time in a place where everyone thinks alike. I have an unusual past, religiously, that makes me especially suspicious of any demand to toe the party line. But we, as people, are such truth seekers, and wherever we find ourselves in our own journey, we are looking for a set of precepts to settle on and live out of. Finding people who share our values is a given in the socialization process. We concur, we prune, we adjust, we realign, based on information we glean from others. And then we decide. Even the most agnostic of us make decisions about how the world is made and what laws govern it… who’s in control and who the enemy is. And the more confident we become in whatever conclusions we make, it seems that our arrogance grows.
My conundrum is this: is it possible to have confidence in your beliefs and remain humble? I wish I had more examples in my life of this picture of grace (and there are examples), but usually the two increase in kind… the more firm the conviction, the more forceful and unyielding a person tends to become. Whether it’s about politics or food or child-rearing or God… money or art or beauty or media. I count myself in this number. When I am undecided, I can have much better conversations, free of the ache to convince or convert. But I am always intent on deciding, and building a structure to pragmatically choose how to live. And as soon as I do that, I’ve also chosen against a set of propositions. These propositions are ones that others are employing, and the mind belittles the other possibilities in its wake. There is nothing wrong with the process, but it’s the attitude that comes with it that I’m finding so problematic. None of this is as acute when you’re hanging out with a bunch of people who agree. The “others” are an abstraction, and the sting of difference is dulled.