Friday, March 2, 2012

Black and White and Sad All Over

It seems to me that there are many people for whom the world is black and white. Everything they think about can be divided neatly into bins: good or bad, like or hate, agree or disagree. They go along, not really worrying about much, because anything new they hear can be easily sorted away. If they ever need to tell someone what they think of a certain topic, they rifle through the bins, find it, and say exactly what they've decided on the matter without hesitation or deliberation. And so certain are they of the conclusion they have made and the facts or thoughts that allowed them to arrive at that conclusion, that even in the face of other facts or another side of the story, they will not change their minds. Each topic must remain in the bin in which it was originally placed.

Sometimes I am so envious of those people. Life must be so easy for those people.

Instead of having the neatly ordered and labeled bins, I feel like I have maybe only two bins. I have the bin where I keep the few things about which I do feel certain (or at least certain enough to keep in the certainty bin). And then I have another bin. The bin for everything-else.

All the stuff in my everything-else bin is all jumbled together. When one of the everything-else topics comes up, I pull out my thoughts on the matter and hold it up to see what conclusion or near-conclusion I came to the last time I considered it. Then I take the new information I'm getting about the topic, along with whatever I might have inadvertently gleaned about it while thinking of other related topics, and I add that all together to see what I think now.

I think that some would argue that it is prudent to be willing to re-examine my thoughts on a matter when presented with new facts or ideas about it. But I find it to be crazy-exhausting sometimes. And if a topic is especially concerning to me, I like to put it out there and get the thoughts of others on it.

The problem with this is that it often draws criticism from the people with all the neat bins. The neat bin people seem to think there is only one "right" way to think on the topic and wonder how I could possibly not see it the same way they do. Of course, trying to present the new facts or ideas about it that I have discovered does not help matters. In fact, it often makes it worse. If they reject the facts or ideas as some kind of bias or propaganda, we really can't have a dialogue. We are on two different pages and using a completely different sorting system.

It's not that it bothers me when people don't agree with what I think. It bothers me when our sorting systems prevent us from being able to have a civilized discussion. It bothers me that I can't always explain what I think about something because my thoughts about it are changing as I speak. And, even though I sometimes wish for everything in my head to be easy and neatly sorted, in a way it makes me sad that some people refuse to ever re-think their conclusions and re-sort their bins. Maybe neither system is ideal, but I guess that when I think about it I'll just learn to live with my messy-yet-often-revisited everything-else bin. At least, that's what I've decided about it for now.