Saturday, November 14, 2009

And what will find the truth? Love, only Love

I like to think of myself is a tolerant man.

Definitions time!

(But before that, the song that I am alluding to in the title must be given due credit, U2 - Electrical Storm - so much awesomeness)

So often statements like the above are made without proper care to the definitions of the key terms. This can be problematic because even if the definitions of the speaker are only slightly different than the definitions of the listener, it can cause grave miscommunication. For example, if a soldier says "I am a man of peace", what he could mean is that I go to war to defend the future peace or a more profound peace than the present. A listener however could think that statement means is that the soldier is claiming to be a person who doesn't fight or who encourages non-violence, and thus the listener could label the soldier a liar or a hypocrite (or if the listener was a very bizarre person he could label the soldier a hippopotamus, but that assumption would probably be unrelated to what the soldier said). The miscommunication here is the definition, both denotative (as in what the literal meaning is) and connotative (as in what ideas and feelings are associated with that meaning), of the word "peace".

In fact, given the uniqueness of everyone's minds, and the immense power of feelings and unspoken ideas to shape our understandings, all meaningful communication contains a degree of miscommunication, especially since even in efforts to clarify the miscommunication we must invoke words/phrases/ideas which are just as likely to be misunderstood.

Yet by expressing ourselves fully (and clearly as well, though with my tendency for rambling that's not going to happen), we can misunderstand less. So before explaining what implications I draw from my sentence "I like to think of myself is a tolerant man.", let me clarify a little my definition of tolerance.

What I believe tolerance means is that you do not consider it a personal flaw to be wrong, and you do not let someone's wrong-ness in one aspect affect all aspects of your relationship. That may sound profoundly intolerant, but let me expand. People hold different views, and even if you can say everyone is entitled to their own opinion, if you are (more or less) certain that point A is right, and point B is opposed to point A, you must (implicitly or explicitly) hold that point B is wrong. Thus even if someone else is entitled to believe point B, if they hold point B, you must consider them wrong on the matter, or reduce the degree of your certainty to just a matter of being certain of point A in the limited ways it applies to you (that is if you think stealing is wrong, but you refuse to admit that this implies that those who feel stealing is okay are wrong, what you really are believing is not that stealing is wrong, but that you stealing is wrong, you just aren't admitting to yourself the real truth of what you believe).

Thus the only way a man of beliefs and ideals can be tolerant is to accept that others can be wrong. And this isn't really so hard, since yes, you too can be wrong. Admitting that you can be wrong isn't a contradiction to believing you are right. After all, if you go outside for a walk, you don't think you'll be mugged, but even in the safest neighborhood, you might get mugged. Moreover, maybe based on limited information, or a flawed thinking process, or maybe bad luck, you can miscalculate the chance of you getting mugged. So you can be wrong, I can be wrong, and that's okay.

But then again, why? Why is it okay? Well, here is something I believe, and as the center of all my beliefs, it is the thing I am most certain I am right on, in fact it is perhaps one thing I don't think I could be convinced that I am wrong on.

That above all else, Love is supreme.

Intertwined with this:

There is a loving God in charge of the universe.

Could I be convinced otherwise? I doubt it. I'm not going to say that I couldn't be wrong on this point, because I admit my mind is not infinite, perhaps there's some way I haven't thought of that I could be convinced otherwise. But this I believe.

Thus above all disagreements, Love must prevail, and thus I strive to be tolerant even when I believe in all earnestness that the other is wrong.

Now let me draw out the implications of "I like to think of myself as a tolerant man."

The implication is tolerance is cool. So don't be an intolerant bum, yeah I'm talking to you Raj Thackeray! (now this may seem like a contradiction, but idiotic bum-iness is the natural outgrowth of a lack of tolerance, as shown by Raj Thackeray, so while I do not hold that this inherently dehumanizes him or that this proves him wrong in other aspects of his person, he is an idiotic bum (actually I'm just kidding, he may very well be a smart man, and may very well be a hard-worker, however the idea of intolerance that he holds is idiotic, wrong and full of bum-iness, and while I believe in tolerance for people, I do not mind saying that some ideas (not people mind you, whether or not they support this idea), ought be given a savage beating for their extreme idiotic-ness (again NOT people, beating people due to politics is also a very idiotic idea)).

No comments: