I Don’t Know, I Want to Know, and When I Know, I Might Be Wrong

“I don’t know” is the best first answer to any question. Not out of apathy, but out of awe in the face of the immense complexity of the world around us.

I am distinctly aware of the criticism sometimes thrown in my direction that I’m at times afraid to  “pick sides” in an argument because I’m afraid of being disliked by the person I’m arguing with. There is certainly a grain of truth to that criticism. I think a lot of us avoid confrontation when the cost outweighs the benefit. And how we evaluate the costs and the benefits varies from person to person.

Still, I find it counter-productive for my own development and learning to be too blunt about my current stance on an issue. I’ve learned (sadly) that taking a stance often means that you drive away people that disagree with you and attract people that agree with you. The truth is: I learn more from intelligent people that disagree with me, so I’d like them to stick around. Talking to them is an exercise in patience, but it motivates asking the hard questions of myself in the hours, days, weeks, and months after we talk.

Anyway, much like in science, I think the best way to approach life is as a student. I try to approach every heated conversation with the feeling that:

  1. I don’t know enough about it.
  2. I want to learn more about it.
  3. No matter, how much I learn, I’m open to the possibility of changing my mind.

Of course, I don’t approach every subject like this. I’m only human with a pretty damn big ego, and so often I’ll be stubborn and irrational as hell. And like most people, I can only stand so much s*** being flung at me, before I disengage or even return the favor. But usually, staying quiet and instead opting for a nap fixes most problems.

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