Archive for March, 2009|Monthly archive page

Have You Ever Noticed?

In life on March 2, 2009 at 8:19 pm

… how two people can meet for the first time, disagree on almost everything, and go their separate ways, each inflexibly convinced that they are in possession of absolute and immutable truths, each thinking the other a bit stupid, and each believing that what they have disagreed about is among the most important issues of their lives.

Stranger still, if those same two people are thrown together again after the passage of time they often continue the argument, but now on opposite sides of the same issue, unaware of the influence each has had on the other. Usually, neither recognizes the fundamental issue; more likely, each immediately seeks out friends who re-enforce what each already believes (and is miserable if none are available).

This is as true of scholars, teachers and their students as it is of garbage collectors or children. One can be intellectual in private, but one has a vested interest in a world-view when in public. And if either is persuaded to the other point-of-view they honestly think it has been theirs all along.

A variation on this theme: sometimes an individual sees the argument of your enemies most clearly until he and that enemy have a falling out, at which time he begins to realize how cogent your argument was. Suddenly you were right all along, but “I just didn’t see what you were getting at.” He honestly believes you were both always in accord, but that you both were tripped up by that old nemesis, Mr. “Semantics.”

Still another variation: sometimes the individual is compelled to defend everything issued forth from his own lips simply because he said it (without waiting for further data, or in heated argument, or foolishly because he was tired, hungry, or perhaps not feeling so well), though a wiser man would chalk it up quickly to a temporary mental aberration, recognizing that given the right conditions, all men are fools.

One last variation: if the same two people are of different sexes, they very often see the other in the disagreement phase as somewhat unattractive, if not downright ugly. But as their positions merge and they discover that they “were in agreement all along,” each seems more attractive than the first time they met. Unchanging physical features suddenly change right before our eyes!

Copyright © 1971, 2009 by Tad Laury Graham