Do you ever wonder if you’re completely wrong about everything?
Or maybe just anything. Anything at all. I wonder all day about this. Every day. What is it that I’m wrong about? For any particular subject, am I missing any information that might change my views if I were to learn more? Do I have all the facts straight?
What am I going to change my mind about next?
If you’re someone like me who has gone through at least one major ideological transformation, from one end of a spectrum to the complete opposite, you might have some residual apprehension about your ability to ever really trust anything that you think or believe.
Something that I’ve been learning lately is that this is OK. I mean, you hear it all the time – it’s good to admit when you’re wrong; it’s good to modify your ideas according to the best available evidence and to rationally think through the detail of any particular position. It is a virtue to pay attention and do thorough research. This is especially valued in this age, which is an era drenched in a swirling cacophony of endless information.
It’s one thing to be aware of these platitudes, it’s another thing to really accept it. I feel like I ought to be good at it by now, but I suspect I’m really not much better at parsing the logic of a viewpoint than anyone else. Perhaps I have one thing right but another thing wrong. I have too much to learn in order to put much stock in a lot of the things I believe.
This can be a bit paralyzing at times. It’s daunting when you want to say or write something and immediately your instinct to flip it and think of every possible argument against what you’ve just said. It’s even harder when different arguments make sense in different contexts, but you can’t quite figure out the argument that makes sense in all contexts. I suppose the latter would be what is commonly conceived of as Truth with a capital T. Who knows. (ha!)
I am thinking of all this because of a video I saw recently while idly perusing Youtube. Christina Rad is a super cool youtube lady person who has an impeccable sense of rationality (and she’s funny!). She posted a video way back in 2012 about being wrong:
I haven’t managed to find the original video she is referring to, but I admire the fact that she was willing to recant it. It’s far too easy to self-justify everything you do or say in order to save face, but it strikes me as far more respectable to remain devoted to accuracy and to admit when you’ve found information that contradicts what you formally asserted.
It’s respectable, but also scary. I spent roughly a couple of years slowly unraveling my former Pentecostal Christian beliefs, in the end realizing that I found the literal interpretation of the Bible to be untrue, and finally let go of my devout lifelong belief in a deity… and the “spiritual realm” (as we liked to call it at my church) altogether.
When it became clear that it was no longer feasible or possible for me to maintain any charade of devotion, I had to prioritize my need to be a whole genuine person and come clean about the fact that I wanted to reject everything that I had once so vehemently believed. And I did it my face soaked in rough tears.
Now, not every change of mind is going to be that dramatic – it could be as simple as finding out a statistic is unverifiable, or that a news story was an incomplete picture of actual events. Sometimes it’s a slow, gradual shift of degrees. Sometimes it’s not a deeply personal journey of pain, but rather an educational journey of intellect – though sometimes it’s a little of both.
Whatever the degree of it, the changing of mind is never ending. There is not one single point at which you can arrive, having solved the equation of all of the things that could ever be absolutely true. Until your deathbed you will be circling around the truths and paradigms that you stumble across, picking at them like a vulture in the desert (or like a bunny in a carrot garden? perhaps that’s a less dreary metaphor…). At many possible points in life, your mind will flip its views and your understanding of any number of things will transform – hopefully for the better.
I think it’s a little overwhelming to think about. It can be disconcerting to know that you might be incredibly wrong about any particular thing. But as the Beatles once surmised: the life goes on.