He Said, She Said

“He who only knows his side of the argument, knows very little of that.”

This paraphrased quote, borrowed from utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill, speaks to the idea of the importance of counter arguments. It is impossible to render a verdict until both sides of the argument have been provided and explained, no matter how strongly one may feel about an issue. Many of my students have changed their minds over an important matter after they were forced to argue the opposite side of their (seemingly) preferred position.

I would contend the same holds true in our interpersonal relationships. That is to say that when a friend is having trouble in a relationship and are explaining this relational strife to you, I would extend this idea that he who only hears one side of the story, does not know the story at all, or, at the very least, very little of it.

So when someone recently was explaining to me the plight of their friend who was “screwed over” by their now ex-husband, my first reaction was as to whether or not they had heard the ex’s side of the story. Exasperated that I did not immediately just buy into the “victimhood” and plight of her friend, we just decided to drop the conversation. What she wanted to hear was, “That no good, dirty bastard!” Of course he may be, yet I have lived long enough to know a scorned human being is rarely an objective one, perceptions jaded by the scabs of deep wounds.

This is not to suggest I believe such people to be lying, rather they are experiencing the situation through hurt and prejudiced senses, lacking the ability to perceive their own personal responsibility, if there is indeed some to be found, and, in my experience, there usually is some.

This is not a gender issue. I have heard a myriad of men speak to the misery unleashed by their former significant female other and I refuse to believe such a demonization until I have heard what their now-nemesis and former lover has to say; after all, men and women typically have different antennas. However this is only if I am requested to render a conclusion at all. Often times I just sit silent and think to myself what the other he or she would have to say…most frequently no response neither requested nor necessary.

Same for the “he said, he said” and “she said, she said” crowds. Hell, even for the “they said, they said” relationships.

All of us human beings just love to fill-in-the-blanks of unknown, missing and incomplete information.

Or…

Perhaps in our quest to empathize with those we love we forsake THE truth for the sake of HER or HIS truth?

Could it be both sympathy and/or empathy are superior to truth seeking?

Ah, my place, tensionland.

Rene’, my partner for over 40 years, and I have always said that if one of us declared in a court of law the 4 or 5 worst things we have ever done or said to each other in these past 4 decades, we would both be able to paint a pretty awful picture of each other…without uttering one single lie and no trace of perjury to be found.  40 plus years is a hell of a long time to be picture perfect for your partner. To catch someone and declare them guilty in their few worst moments, when thousands of best moments abound, is both inaccurate and unfair. And if you know what I think of my partner, that is fairly eye opening.

I must admit to being skeptical towards one who feels the need to express their ill will towards a former lover at all in the first place. Why? Are they seeking said empathy? Or trying to abdicate their personal responsibility and personal poor behavior over their role in the dissolution of the relationship? By painting a horrible and terrible picture of a former partner are they attempting to justify their own poor choices?

I would contend it is frequently the latter, and perhaps, at times, the former. Maybe both.

Does empathy outweigh truth-seeking?  One could argue THE truth will likely never be known in any case, so why not love on and console a hurt loved one? Or does truth-seeking keep both parties responsible for their role in the failed relationship, hence coming to terms with their own reality and culpability? This may provide a good opportunity to look in the relationship mirror at our own shortcomings.

Of course, the answer to these questions is purely on a case-to-case basis, while one “empathy vs. truth seeking” size does not fit all.

In any case, before we go ahead and demonize anyone, we may want to hear the other side of the story, as he who only knows one side, knows very little of that.

 

 

 

 

The Potential High Cost of Truth Seeking or Fine, Some Are More Neanderthal Than Others. So What?

What happens when the world of what may be true collides with the world of what we desperately want to be true?

It can get very ugly, very quickly.

So, when political scientist Charles Murray published a book in 1994 concerning intelligence, The Bell Curve, in which one chapter is devoted to the understanding of the role of race and IQ, these worlds collided and it was not pretty.

Since this book was written nearly 25 years ago, Murray has been all but officially banned from the social scientific community and universities -his life and well-being threatened.

In this one chapter, his scientific inquiry led him to the conclusion that race does play a role in IQ in the main, with plenty of outliers. To summarize a complex conclusion based on many variables, his research concluded that of all the populations on the planet, Asians possessed the highest IQ, then something along the lines of whites, blacks and Hispanics.

When I first heard of this book, my first questions were, “What’s the point? Even if there are racial differences in IQ what would be the practical application of such data?”

After listening to an interview with Murray, I never received an altogether satisfying response. He warns of a potentially dangerous “cognitive elite” and something along the lines that social policy should be the product of good science. I am thinking he means policies such as affirmative action, though I am not entirely certain.

He does not sound like a racist, then again, very few real racists sound like racists.

Whether or not Murray is a genius, racist asshole or something in between, is not the point of this blog. I am not a fan of Murray nor have the background or understanding of the brain’s inner workings and its interplay with neuroscience to even have an opinion…and I would bet you don’t either.

I do know the claim that certain groups lack sufficient intellectual skills is one that has been used to argue for slavery, racism, sexism, Jim Crow laws, and eugenics, just to name a few. No level-headed champion of social causes would ever want Murray’s research to be even remotely true.

And this is the point of this blog and the cognitive dissonance I am currently experiencing: When does the search for what may be true need to take a backseat to what that search may cause in terms of social fallout and injustice? If it turns out to be true, that is all racist assholes would need to justify their intolerable and hate-filled views.

I realize that in 2018 we are striving for an equal playing field for all, though I know with absolute certainty there are a lot of people way, way, way smarter and more intelligent than I (in fact I am not smart enough to know if that last word before this parenthesis was supposed to be “I” or “me” or even “myself”). I do think it is an interesting study to find out the effects of intelligence on society and what the advantages the “cognitive elite” have over myself and others while seeking strategies for a more level playing field.

Yet if such a study would cause social upheaval and used to justify injustice, is the price of seeking answers to these questions simply too high?

To illustrate, I recently read a scientific journal article that stated genetic researchers are finding out certain human beings have more Neanderthal DNA than previously believed. “East Asians have about 2.3 to 2.6 percent Neanderthal DNA, while people from western Europe and Asia have retained about 1.8 to 2.4 percent DNA. African populations have virtually none because their ancestors did not mate with Neanderthals.”

I could not help but think that what if those numbers were flipped and African populations were part Neanderthal and not whites and Asians? If this opposite were true, would it be worth reporting this scientific discovery knowing this could propel a racist narrative for those hungry to confirm their racist bias? What is the purpose of reporting such a finding at all if it means providing fodder for evil agendas, i.e. idiots?

Yet as one who concurrently likes to read and seek out such interesting information, I am squarely “in tension.”

I am keenly aware of the role confirmation bias plays in the human psyche -the path of least resistance is simply seeking out “confirming” information and stimulus that provides the backing for what we want to be true and discard the rest. Also, as one who attempts to critically think, the path of least resistance is never the preferred path.

The easiest thing to do in the case of Charles Murray is to discredit the man as a racist asshole and move forward…and maybe he is, yet maybe he is not. Maybe he is man that loves to study one’s intellect and its role in culture, and, for whatever reason, race is studied as part of that larger equation.

I could not tell you.

Perhaps honest scientific inquiry can simultaneously move society backward and forward at the same time. I have far more questions than answers: Is the “truth” always worth seeking out? If scientific inquiry divides people, is there a good point to it? Why study anything by race…why not just study the human race? What are the ethical considerations science must adopt when conducting such research? Or should scientists just do science and allow the social chips to fall how and where they may?

I’ll write another blog when I figure these out and let you know. In the meantime, I have a feeling many more worlds will be colliding in the near future.

 

 

 

 

 

Good Morning! And In Case I Don’t See Ya, Good Afternoon, Good Evening, And Good Night! Oh…And I Don’t Know Shit!

One of my most emotional moments in cinematic history—the one that brings shivers down my spine and tears to my eyes—probably doesn’t even conjure up the slightest reaction in most people. I realize that poetry, songs, and movie scenes have far more to do with the season in life and the experiences that emotionally connect us with this poetry, songs, or scenes, over the quality of the art itself. For example, the song “I Wanna Kiss You All Over,” the piece of crap by Exile in 1978, is, objectively speaking, shit, on (then) vinyl. Yet whenever I hear this song it takes me back to one of my first kisses and I squeal with delight like a child whenever I hear it.

Such is the case with the movie The Truman Show—the story of a man, unknowingly living inside a large sound studio thinking that is his reality, only to eventually find out, through an arduous series of circumstances, he had been lied to his whole life and what he thought was real, never was—it was all in a phony and fake, albeit quite large and elaborate, movie set.

It is this moment, when Truman reaches out and touches the far outer wall after journeying across the “ocean” of the studio, when he has his epiphany of truth and looks of sadness, surprise, relief, happiness, and mystery all converge on his face at once.
TruTouch
I then weep. I can’t help it.

Why?

Good question.

I am pretty consistent with my belief that whenever we have a strong emotional reaction to something it is time to look inward and ask why. Some inner force drives our guttural, emotional responses to things and, with a little honest, self-introspection we can usually identify the source.

I once heard a preacher man use Truman’s experience to exemplify how this world is a lie and we need to discover the truth of the wall; as if touching the wall is like finding Jesus. However, I can easily see how such an analogy could work the opposite way as well—as in Jesus has been duping your ass this whole time and now you found the truth as you waded through the Christian bullshit.

As I consider my emotional reaction, it had nothing to do with finding faith nor losing it. My reaction had far more to do with the victory found in constant seeking and self-discovery; perhaps touching on that universal archetype in all of us that scratches the itch of the constant craving of seeking, knowing, journeying to new levels of truth and knowledge. That humbling process that surrenders us to the mysteries of the universe, rendering us both significant and insignificant, as we simultaneously find and lose.

After Truman touches the wall and heaves a sigh, he begins punching at the wall, trying to tear it down as he is locked inside that reality: The quest of the human spirit.

This is when I weep the hardest.

That struggle in all of us to know the unknown, to break free from all that binds and restricts, to seek the truth. I realize my entire life is epitomized in that moment. I fight, I struggle, and I want to tear down all that keeps me from knowing and keeps me in a type of protected infancy. I yearn for constant discovery and growing clarity of life and the universe.

Truman then weeps realizing he had been living a lie. And the greatest lie we ever could believe? Thinking we know. Truth? We don’t know shit.

This was not the end of Truman’s journey; it was just the beginning. We can all start to really live life when we realize we don’t know shit.

I suppose if I was having an epiphany around the same time this movie came out it would be this: We really don’t know shit. That is a tough pill to swallow yet when you finally digest it, it is the most liberating position in life.

I frequently tell my classes that your education begins once you realize how much you DON’T know.

Was this scene great art? I don’t know enough about film making to tell you. What I do know is that it touched me as I was attempting to break down some walls of my own, on my own road of self-discovery and truth. And what have I found since I first viewed this movie?

I haven’t found shit…and I have never been happier.