Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Attempting the Impossible

It seems that everyone in this world who actually sounds like they know what they’re talking about (please notice how that is different than saying “...everyone who knows what they’re talking about) is no less than 49.

I think this is the way it generally works: You form some actual opinions about life around you, and maybe even current events outside your immediate day to day, and this happens between the ages of 15-19, though the age range is much younger if you were homeschooled or if you have politically extremist parents of any persuasion. Anyway, three to fifteen years later you look back on your opinions and realize that you’ve grown a lot since then and you can’t believe you were as dumb as you were. It depends on the person, but if my experience is any indication, this will happen to you at least five times before you turn 49.

The basic premise is that people are stupid. And it’s strange because in some ways we aren’t. People are able to drive cars, 70% of the people in this country are able to buy a home and maintain it; we’re not complete dummies. But we are. We do absolutely ridiculous things: we’re flighty and capricious and irrational and fickle, selfish, shortsighted. Read the local section of your newspaper for a few days, soak in the fact that these people are your neighbors, and you’ll begin to see what I’m saying.

But at some point, and usually it’s around the age of 49, the haze starts to clear. At that point, even if I don’t agree with the person’s beliefs, they seem to have good reasons for why they believe what they believe, and they seem to be fairly confident in them.

I want to skip to that. I don’t want to skip to that age, which at any rate it impossible, but I want to skip to that point of view. I want to avoid all of the pain and regret that results from having to do the hard work of acquiring beliefs via trial and error.

Admittedly it’s a hard thing to do, to skip actual stages of human experience, but it seems that it can be done. My plan is to listen to old people that I agree with, study inside and out why it is that they believe these things, listen to the mistakes that they committed before arriving at their well rounded belief scheme, and adopt.