I’ve been thinking about my bedrock beliefs, about the fundamental of my worldview. It’s been pretty interesting, because every time I think I’ve got one thing nailed down, I realize it’s actually supported by a host of other beliefs.
I give up already! Not really 🙂 But I sure as hell won’t be able to give you what I’ve found out so far wrapped up in a tidy bow.
So instead I’ll tell you a bit of a story, in the hopes that it will be somehow illustrative.
I was always an exceptional kid. We won’t get into that, but suffice it to say that I didn’t really have friends in middle school. I wasn’t actively picked on, but I didn’t really understand the bizarre social etiquette of “friendship” and rather than struggle where other found it so easy, I just read a lot.
My school was really small. I went to school with the same 7 kids in my grade from kindergarten to graduation. I read my way through the library and then began compiling lists of the classics, and then proceeded to self-educate in the manner of auto-didacts everywhere; read everything you can get your hands on. I was mostly interested in how people considered themselves to be well-educated and sophisticated in the days before school grades and university degrees. I loved Victorian manners, Renaissance intellectualism, and above all, the classics.
I integrated certain mores from my reading that I certainly never picked up in my hometown. I think the most important of those is that I was willing to be taught.
A lot of people resist this. Because implicit in learning something new, is that quite likely, whatever you thought you knew is wrong. I say, whatever. Integrating new information and knowledge as it comes to light is the essence of scientific thought. Let me reiterate, for clarity. Changing your mind in the light of new information doesn’t make you wrong. It makes you underinformed. Refusing to change your mind in the light of new information makes you wrong.
I can trace several crucial turning points in my life to integrating new information. I’ll tell you about the first one:
I was a prudish little girl (at 14). I had read the feminst tracts and really, truly believed that until a boy could be in every way my partner, ready to stand by me for the long haul, through thick and thin, until I could be reasonable certain that he loved me no matter what, there was no way we should have sex. People who had sex with out those key ingredients were simply seeking affirmation and love in a transactionary and ultimately unfulfilling manner. (As you can see, early indoctrination is key, people.)
Then I went to a summer camp for budding writers and met Felicia. She was 16, and she was having sex with her boyfriend.
I was aghast, but, since as a fellow writer she clearly had developed cognitive abilities, I decided to ask her for her reasoning. Why would you give that up? I asked, referring to the semi-mythical powers of ‘holding out’. And she said, I love him, and he loves me. Why wouldn’t I share a loving experience with him, rather than withhold it?
She didn’t convince me then, but it marked the very first time I realized that some one could have all the information I had, all the knowledge and powers of reason, and still reach a different conclusion.
And neither of us was wrong.
How bout that?