Nothing strikes a match to the unstable dynamite of my impatience more than a person who claims enlightenment by rejecting the idea of knowable truth. I become irked to no end at the individuals who parade around proudly their self-bestowed title of “open-minded”, as they promptly inform you that you are wrong on so many accounts, most specifically, on the account that you think you are right. (Anyone else see the absolute irony there?) The absurd line of thought, that truth cannot be known, is all the more infuriating to deal with seeing as it provides an easy escape from any form of reasonable debate or argument.
For an individual whose beliefs orbit around the notion that no belief can ever or should ever be permanently held, there cannot exist even the hope of a logical discussion. This is because the entire purpose of a logical discussion is to better discern the truth between two cognitive understandings, to progress towards a (hopefully) common goal of knowing truth. However, if an individual believes one can never know the truth, the discussion lacks an end goal. It moves nowhere, purposeless, and instead turns endlessly in circles as you battle to simply establish that it is actually possible to establish something.
All the while the person you are trying to talk with possesses the lofty air of one who has gained access to a secret club that you can never hope to achieve membership in.
There exists among youth culture a perplexing phenomena where one achieves intellectual superiority not by learning or striving for truth, but instead washing their hands of the whole quest.
You cannot know, so why try.
You win the race, by not starting in the first place.
The one thing you can be certain of, is that you can be certain of nothing. A whole mess of logical paradoxes really.
We scrap the old saying, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game,” and replace it with a fashionably vague new attitude; “You may strike out, and lots of people do strike out, so probably best to just sit in the corner of the dug our and stuff cotton candy in your mouth. At least you won’t be able to lose.”
By all means, we should constantly question and evaluate and seek to learn more about what we hold to be true; Socrates was spot on when he wrote, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. But that does not equate to never believing anything to be true.
It takes little courage to constantly ask questions and flutter haphazardly from one idea to the next without ever actually making them one’s own. There’s no active decision, no going out on a limb, and certainly no offending anyone because you make no claims. It is a sort of window shopping that keeps you from ever finding yourself in the red having made a mistake, but it also prevents you from actually owning anything of substance. To explore and learn about a facet of truth and then have the bravery and resolve to stand for that truth, despite knowing there is always the chance you may have to endure the embarrassment of having chosen wrongly, possesses immeasurably more worth.
People often make mistakes in what we learn, this is undeniable. We aren’t perfect, and we never will be. But this imperfection cannot be the flaw that we allow to become an excuse for avoiding our most important task on earth; discerning the true and often hidden realities of the world we live in.
I can abide a person standing up for what they believe in, even if that person’s beliefs may be flawed. What I cannot abide are those who refuse to stand for anything for fear that they may be found in error; those who lay a gloss over their actions of avoidance by glamorizing them with claims that no one can know, truth is an illusion, that a person who is steadfast lacks empathy; those who rail against anyone resolute as lacking the ever-glorified quality of “open-mindedness”.
If you’re open-minded, great. But that shouldn’t mean you stand for nothing. It should mean you’re open to hearing valid arguments against that which you believe in.
G. K. Chesterton put it beautifully: ”
“Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”
Questioning, listening to the viewpoints of others, garnering understanding about the complexity of the world, all these actions are pointless unless they possess the ultimate goal of claiming, defending, and standing up for a truth.