It fascinates me to no end to see friends and acquaintances voice their opinions on various matters on social media. Some of it appears to be original thought, but most is little more than a sharing of the previous thoughts of others, a collection of quotes, memes, video links, etc. that reinforce their basic worldview and reaffirm that they are correct in their beliefs.
The more extreme the person or his views, the more consistent his or her posts appear. There is a certainty in such viewpoints, plenty of “evidence” to back them up, and those who sit on one extreme or another, be it on the political spectrum, with respect to views on social or economic issues, enjoy a measure of certainty for their pure, black-and-white opinions.
I would venture to say that the bulk of what is advocated and reiterated through social media can be categorized as belonging to one extreme or another.
But what of the rational middle?
Why are there so few people who take the time to deliberate on such matters, who are willing to put their personal biases on the chopping block and consider, with empathy an overriding concern for the discovery of truth? Why is it so lonely and so hard to find and live in the rational middle? Why is it easier to take sides and live unquestioningly and zealously on one extreme or the other?
The answer is simple: comfort.
The simple fact of being all in on one end of the spectrum or another brings as I mentioned a level of certainty. There are less questions and there is less questioning. In such a state, there is a foregone conclusion that any alternative viewpoints are heretical and that their proponents are ignorant at best, but more likely they are involved in a secret plot to overthrow the world. There is certainty in fanatical thinking, and with that certainty comes comfort.
Working to find the balanced perspective is just that, work! The middle, which is often where the truth is found, doesn’t come naturally to us in the state we’re in, where forcibly held opinions are permitted to trump truth and where might, not right makes right. It is uncomfortable at times, lonely in others, but only on the surface.
Truth only hurts when you recognize it, but refuse to yield to it. We needn’t be afraid of the truth, in fact, truth is the ultimate comforter. Truth is never in conflict with itself, so it is free of divisiveness. Truth is absolute and therefore unaffected by opinion or belief, so it is always reliable.
The rational middle requires humility, honesty, and a willingness to change course when propensity or prejudice is revealed to be undue. The rational middle requires self-awareness, empathy, and a willingness to acknowledge that we individually or as a species may have been wrong, even if massively wrong in our understanding of the universe or of ourselves.
The fortunate thing about public discourse and free speech is that it allows for ideas to be heard and tried in the court of public opinion. To the degree that there are those who commit themselves to the rational middle, the debate is productive and not just a swing from one extreme to another, as human progress so typically is.
If you hear both sides and think, well he’s partly right there and she’s partly correct there, then you know what I am talking about. The question is, will you say something about it?
The truth needs no defense, but it does need a mouthpiece. It must be given voice. It must be revered and held with sanctitude in thought, word, and deed.
What say you?