|Why this microscopic image of a snowflake? Read on.|
I didn't pick that quote because of the play. Actually, I know nothing about the play — or Oscar Wilde, for that matter (sorry to any former literature teachers who might be reading this). I picked it because it neatly sums up my reason for starting a blog again.
Part of human nature involves a desire to have an easy, rational, concrete answer or solution for every problem or question. Another part of human nature is wanting to convince ourselves that our perspective is right — and that others are wrong. We want to draw logical, tangible conclusions that we're comfortable defending as correct, or superior, should they be challenged.
The trouble is, almost nothing can be resolved that easily. The world — and our lives — is defined by nuance. To put it another (more eloquent) way, the universe is complex as hell. It's exceedingly difficult to conclude that you have the right answer, when so many dilemmas or debates simply don't have just one single answer to them — much less one single correct answer. And very few controversies have just two sides.
But, you might respond, there are some universal truths we can all agree on. The sky is blue.
You're right. Few would contend that the sky is any color other than blue. But what is blue? Can you define the color blue, using only words, without making reference to or pointing at any items that are blue?
Would you have any idea what blue is if you had never seen it? What if you had only ever heard others describe it?
And even if you have seen it, how do you know that others see the color blue as you do? We may agree that the sky is blue, but do we see it the same way? We can't know that — not unless I can experience your vision, and you mine.
How about snowflakes? At face value, they all look similar — tiny, fleeting, insignificant elements of nature.
But at the microscopic level, each snowflake is astonishingly, beautifully complex. Ever heard it said that no two snowflakes are identical? Is that true?
It doesn't really matter. The point is that our human desire for intellectual simplicity and certainty — and our repulsion of intellectual dissonance — is at odds with the infinitely complex nature of the world and universe in which we live. There are many realities (as in the sky color example) that cannot be "explained" to us. We have to experience them for ourselves. And there are others (as in the snowflake example) that seem negligibly simple at first experience. Only subsequent, closer examination will reveal the complexity beneath the surface, resulting in changed perspective.
"The truth is rarely pure, and never simple." Unfortunately, we live in a culture that tries to convince us that it is, in fact, both:
- If you aren't on the left, you must be on the right, and if you aren't for this, then you must be against it.
- If you have certain characteristics — or say certain words — then you can be categorized a certain way.
- If the headlines say this or the polls say that, then we can be sure of where we're headed (at least until the next ones are released).
- If your position isn't popular, then it must be wrong.
And, in the spirit of everything I just said, I'll calmly and succinctly explain to you why my position is the only correct one. I hope you'll fill the role of reminding me that it isn't.