Thursday 9 April 2015

On babies, screw-drivers and deck chairs

What do you do when long-held beliefs suddenly start to crumble under the impact of fresh information?

It's a situation that most of us have had to confront at one time or another. For some of us more than once.

One option is to go into denial. Get defensive, refuse to be pushed any further up the learning curve. Dig your toes in and circle the wagons, hallelujah! Growing is painful, make it stop!

I dare say we've all met people like that. The older you get the harder it is to go through a seismic shift in your world-view. You end up spending a lot of time and energy trying to convince yourself (usually while trying to convince others) that there's no problem.

Another option is to finesse your views. Take out a screw-driver and make a few adjustments. Look for the deeper significance. I confess that this has been my favoured approach over the years. Reject a vulgar literalism, for example, and  try to uncover the authentic values that lie "in, with and under" the problematic elements.

Then there are the "baby and bathwater" types. Out it all goes.

I was challenged on this a few days ago by something Hemant Mehta wrote. He was making the point that the Option 1 people - the example was Ted Cruz - are only succeeding in creating more Option 3 converts. To summarise the argument, more young people are distancing themselves from any form of Christianity because "they don't want to be part of a religion that does so much damage in our society. [The role of fundamentalist extremists is] to make them realize how awful their beliefs really are."

And that hit me between the eyes. True, nicht wahr? How do we expect young people (or even the occasional old coot) to bother with a nuanced, compassionate or progressive understanding of their inherited faith while all the noise is being made by lobotomised literalist preachers who advocate a gospel of judgement, fear and intolerance? The situation isn't helped by the congenital unwillingness of more sophisticated mainline Christians to distance themselves from the moralistic tithe-farmers who now loudly dominate public discourse on all things Christian.

And I wondered, if only for a fleeting moment, whether the "baby and bathwater" types had succeeded in cutting the Gordian knot while others like myself were fluffing around trying to shuffle deck chairs on the Titanic. Yeah I know, horrible mixed metaphor, but you get the idea.

I guess I'll stick with Option 2, but maybe I'll also be less critical of those who, in all good conscience, find Option 3 the only one they can really deal with.


  1. Gavin, one of your very best commentaries - you went straight to the heart of the matter!

  2. Wow Gavin! I happen to know Ted Cruz. He is an absolutely brilliant person of uncompromising integrity! We would be incredibly fortunate to have someone of such character leading the "free world". He is also a very very nice guy. I do not understand how people get these bizarre ideas about others. But, guys like Mehta do not help when he suggests that we should turn away from people with character.

    That is the most important thing that the Obama Presidency has taught us, and the whole world. Character DOES matter.

  3. Those of us who have Structural Visualization and have some understanding of the Universe surrounding us are probably going to go for option 3, since we don't particularly have any interest in fuzzy abstract philosophies of dubious provenance.

    However, some of us will enthusiastically embrace dressing up as Klingons in the local Trekkie's chapter to go out and feed the hungry and help the homeless. We realize that fantasy can not only help us recharge our batteries but may have collateral benefits for others.

    So maybe option #2 could just be a benign hobby.

    Just so long as everyone clearly understands the difference between reality and fantasy to make informed choices -- which, of course, is not an option with option #1 where -- and we hate to point this out -- there is no baby or bathwater and the whole simile is in reference to the disgusting practice of the middle ages of people taking their monthly bath, with the eldest going first until the whole family had their turn in the tub where finally the water was so dirty that the baby was oft lost in the detritus.

    Oops -- there's that paragraph sentence of the which you are so fond. What can I say? I was a fan of James Fenimore Cooper when I was a lad....

  4. ... said another "Option One" person.

    Fortunately for the U.S. and the whole world, Ted Cruz has zero chance of winning. The lunacy of Ted Cruz's positions is readily apparent to the vast majority of American voters.

  5. Sadly.....skeptic is probably right about Cruz's chances of winning. That is very UNFORTUNATE! What the USA and indeed, the world, needs right now, is someone like Cruz. But, we don't deserve such a leader: someone who is smart, nice, polite, humble, and honest. No, we are stuck with arrogant and dishonest narcissists! Skeptic's attitude though, which is pervasive, is just further indication that Western Civilization is circling the drain, even faster.

    But then, most people who frequent this site, have known this was going to happen for some time.........

  6. Thanks, Larry, for representing the old-school COG point-of-view on this site so vividly. It reminds us what we came out of. Whew!

    It's clear you and I have opposite world views. I think human civilization is getting better all the time - in fits and starts, with ups and downs. You think it is "circling the drain, even faster". I think Obama is a level-headed leader who is doing a very good job in spite of being dealt an extremely difficult set of circumstances. You join the Republican Right in calling him an arrogant and dishonest narcissist. You think Cruz is terrific - I think as a president he'd be disastrous - worse than Bush.

    It's OK that we disagree. Unlike WCG, here we don't need to "all speak the same thing". You represent the WCG mindset. I'm one who has moved far away from that mindset.