Saturday, March 31, 2018

Balance

Late in life, I learned that
I had to find a balance
between two conflicting needs:
a skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that were served up to me
 and at the same time
 an openness to new ideas.

Obviously these two modes of thought
are in some tension,
but when I exercised only one of these modes,
whichever one it was,
I was in deep trouble.

If I was only skeptical,
then no new ideas made it through to me.
I would never learn anything new.
I became a crotchety old person
convinced that nonsense is ruling the world.
(There is, of course, much data to support that.)

But every now and then,
a new idea turned out to be on the mark,
valid and wonderful.
If I got stuck in the habit
of being skeptical about everything,
I’d miss or resent it,
standing in the way of my understanding and progress.

On the other hand,
if I were open to the point of gullibility
without an ounce of skeptical sense,
then I could not distinguish the useful
from the worthless ones.
If all ideas had equal validity
then I’d be lost,
because then
no ideas had any validity at all.

Some ideas are better than others.
The machinery for distinguishing them
is an essential tool in dealing with the world
and especially in dealing with the future.

And it is precisely the mix of these two modes of thought
that is central to my personal growth.

Interesting that
Institutional Roman Catholicism
requires no skepticism
to its teachings,
and demands no openness to possible alternatives;
a dead-end for all who so abide.


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