My “Why?”

Posted by Keleth | Posted in Philosophy | September 19th, 2008 10:51 AM

No easy answers you say? But 2+2 has a very easy answer you say? 4 huh?

Not a synergy person I see. But regardless, there are basics answers to basic questions, and its always been easy to pose a question, thinking you’ve gotten the best of someone, but its often the hardest thing to come up with an answer that’s satisfactory to more then just you. Then I think about Anekantavada. And I think about how everyone thinks they have the right answer. Even I always seem to. But maybe a little less as of late.

Sunday was the last day of Das Lukshan, the Jain (Digambar) holy days to reflect on the past year, and clear the body, mind, and soul. I’m not really a spiritual person, but I do partake in Das Lukshan. I see a lot of sense in taking some time to reflect on the previous year. Christians have Thanksgiving (how in the world did that become known as a religious holiday? But I digress, that’s a different argument), and Digambar Jains have Das Luckshan.

I like debates. Ask people I interact with and they’ll tell you how often I play devil’s advocate just to get a debate. I also believe debate is essential to a complete decision. But I I have a strong habit of arguing. Not debating, but arguing. I like to be right; who doesn’t? But I start with debates then tend to get into aggressive, adversarial, and it tends to go in the exact opposite direction of where convincing debate should go. This doesn’t happen often; mostly with my dad. And given I’m home all the time now, I’m around my dad all the time, for better or worse.

And so we’re in the middle of Das Lukshan, and one morning I find for some reason, someone’s put a tube of empty toothpaste back into the drawer. I’ve already started brushing my teeth, and I’m thinking, I have to find out which of my parents did this. They’re always on my case to clean up, throw out the trash, etc, yet here is a perfectly worthless tube of toothpaste. I took it out to throw out, forgot, but they still put it back?

Then all of a sudden, something of an epiphany. What would be the point in arguing why they put back the toothpaste? I didn’t throw it out, and whatever their reason, did it matter? It was a tube of toothpaste. And there are bigger issues. We’ve got immigration troubles. My parents have to get my brother through college. Gas prices are through the roof. Countless problems across the world. Does a tube of not-yet-thrown out toothpaste matter that much?

Mind you, my dad is a self-righteous know it all. It doesn’t matter if he has no experience or study in a field, if he’s heard of it, or forbid read a book on it, he’s a master of a subject. Just yesterday I had to prove to him how poll statistics work (that’s an interesting story for another time). But we started with a discussion, and it became an argument. And as we argued, I would say some statements then immediately realize, Holy crap, how full of it am I for saying that? It’s like I just wanted to be right. And that’s where a lot of my arguments did come from. I had to leave the room and calm down a bit, and prove it a bit later (his acceptance of proof is most often simply asserting how that’s what he meant the whole time).

It doesn’t sound like such an epiphany, does it? But really think about it, how often do you make a proverbial mountain out of a toothpaste tube-sized molehill?

And so maybe this Das Lukshan was good for something more then just fasting to appease my parents, and pretending I believe in perfect souls. I thought about it and learned a bit about arguing and I learned arguing isn’t worth it.

Debating helps you see another view point, shed light on the darker regions of an idea. A nice debate, structured or not, even if its just in your own head, helps look for the cracks, and potential filler. And even if you can’t find a filler, you are aware the cracks are there and can work on it. To be effective in a debate, you have to be aware of the opposition, listen to the opposition, and use the opposition’s arguments against them. You have to understand someone to actually convince them of something they don’t currently believe in.

Arguing helps raise some blood pressure, and really blocks you from seeing another view point. In an argument, you get so absorbed in making sure you’re right, that it doesn’t matter what the other person says. Think about it. When you’re arguing, somehow even the other person’s statements are proof to your viewpoint. It becomes so easy to bend everything they say to prove your point, through your own eyes. But normally what you’re saying is gibberish.

And that’s really what pushed me to start this blog. There are so many ideas out there, so many topics, and everyone seems to have the answer. It seems so simple. The answer seems so easy. But looking at what you believe to be the truth is what’s truely easy. The hard part is getting past that self-centered notion, considering the oppositions viewpoint as potentially possible, even if you know its not. And I’m fortunate: thats the environment I was raised in, even if thats not what my parents intended on doing. In fact, I’m pretty sure they didn’t see it coming. In all situations, I can’t help but think, What does the other guy think about this?

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