Subtitle: A personal and, I pray, honest reflection on my opinions.
I am an African American male in his late-sixties, born and raised in the midwestern United States of America to middle-class, Christian, college-educated parents (my father, the son of a Cuban émigré father and an African American mother, and both of my parents, Democratic Party activists immersed in the Civil Rights Movement), with college and graduate degrees, married-divorced-and-remarried, a father of a daughter, and a forty+ year vocation as an ordained Christian minister.
Is this all that I can say about myself? No. Still, it is enough to make this point…
Each of these self-characterizations or descriptions, indeed, realities or truths (i.e., race, sex, age, place of birth, family of origin, relational, economic, social, political, religious milieus, etc.) is as a seed in the fertile ground of my experience that bears the fruit of my opinions about life, its meaning, what’s right or wrong, good or bad, truth or falsehood, who I am and who I am not, and what I ought to do and not do.
Here, as one who believes in defining his terms, I digress…
My opinion is my judgment or conclusion about what is real or true; which, however, is based on evidence that I, honestly, cannot assert as universally certain; that is, clearly, undeniably real or true for all people at all times.(1)
This said, another individual necessarily can and will have opinions other than mine.(2)
This said, I perceive a danger whenever I come to believe that my opinions constitute reality or truth.(3) For then communication is not only difficult, but impossible. For rather than talk to or with others, I talk at (indeed, past) them. Even more, indeed, worse, I converse less and discuss more.(4)
This said, whenever I seek to converse with others about any subject (e.g., race, gender, sexuality, religion, politics, history, science), what if I suspended my belief that my opinions constituted reality or truth, which is another way of saying that I acknowledged my opinions are opinions?
If so, then I would have a better chance to hear them, to listen to them, to be open to their opinions and, thus, I would have a greater chance to learn something other than what I think or believe or know that I already know.
Well, truth is, this is my opinion.
(1) My opinions, therefore, are closely allied to my assumptions. From the Latin, adsumere (ad, “to” or “up” + sumere, “to take”) thus, “to take to” or “to take up” as in to have and to hold as real and true for myself.
(2) It is this innate distinctive difference between and among persons and, thus, their equally inherent differences of opinion that make communication (from the Latin, communicare, “to make common”) intrinsically difficult. For though we humans share a common humanity, we, one from the other, always are uncommon.
(3) Actually, and this is my opinion, whenever I believe that my opinions are universally real or true (as opposed to real or true only for me), what I am saying is that I believe that my opinions should be real or true for all people.
(4) Converse (from the Latin, conversare: con, “with” + versare, “to turn”, thus, to turn or to go with another) and discuss (from the Latin, discutere, “to strike” or “to break up”). Thus, it is no surprise that discussion and concussion have the same root!
5 thoughts on “What if?”
I didn’t know where that was going, but it sure went somewhere great!! I’m reading this in the Botanical Gardens and right now I’m people watching. Before I read this post, I was trying to imagine where the other visitors are from, what they believe, their economic status etc. I could make opinions of all of them but it would just be my opinion. I’ve watched some of them talk and listen to each other. Everyone had opinions of this place in terms of what’s the best exhibit etc…. but I think there’s one truth here this afternoon and that’s that everyone loves this place!
I’ve tried to listen to others WITHOUT factoring in my opinions and it works REALLY well!! You’re so right, what if more people did that? Wouldn’t this be a much better world??
Thanks for making me smile this afternoon as I take in more Holiday sights.
Much love PRA!!!!
Loretta, as I reflect afresh (for, as I’m wont to say, I oft do not and, perhaps, cannot know – as so much our my and anyone’s human processing is, I believe, unconscious – all of the reasons I say or write anything), it occurs to me that this post, in part, arose out of my angst at the seemingly ever-increasing animosity in the tone and temper, the content and context of our current day political speech. Politicians and their supporters lash out at their perceived opponents (enemies!) with a rancor that I do not recall having been a characteristic part of our (civil?) discourse. And, in my view, folk seem to do so with an assurance that their position(s) are real and true rather than their opinions/assumptions (which, in my view, when one states her/his opinion/assumption as real/fact/truth, then it means that she/he has not examined the root of her/his statement so to see and to claim it for what it is – a personally-arrived-at-and-held belief).
As one who, since his sabbatical, now, 13 years ago, has pledged himself to be present to and with “the other” – all those who think and feel, believe and behave differently – this present state of vilification and demonization of “the other” hurts me to my core. Hence, this blog post: “What if?”
For it also occurs to me that if I am not willing to challenge myself on the ground of discriminating between reality/truth (that is, what can be universally held by all at all times) and my opinions/assumptions – for I, truth be told, am as opinionated as anyone, perhaps, in some cases, depending on the subject (whether it is near and dear to my hear), I am more opinionated than most! – then I have no business reacting negatively or judgmentally to the negativity around me.
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You, Dear Sir, so eloquently express all the many things I wish I could and in a quality fashion I may never become able to achieve.
Thank you, Lance, for your kind word and for sharing this sage observation from philosophy’s father! Yours, Paul
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Very well-written and thought provoking.
To add my ‘two cents’… well two cents which I stole from someone else, namely this guy: some old dude from several years ago,
“And if I say that the greatest good of a man is daily to converse about virtue, and all that concerning which you hear me examining myself and others, and that the life which is unexamined is not worth living—that you are still less likely to believe” –Socrates