Hello, my compadres across the internet, around the world, and also those listeners in the far reaches of the Zebulon Galaxy who receive the Glicknorp subscription package on Channel Nueve. This is The Lotus Tea Dragon, and I am hear to discuss with you… well, discuss is a strong word, what with this being one way communication and what-not, but it’s not so one sided that it’s a rant. So let’s call it what it really is: a soliloquy. I will impart to you, a prodigious amount of vocalization, at which point you will give it all due consideration, and then formulate a response, if you wish. It is not, and never has been, mandatory. All I ask is that you listen.
If you’ve been reading for the past couple of weeks, you’ve learned a few of my points of view. If the audience I think I have is the audience I actually have, then both of you have come to terms that just maybe my thoughts and opinions are a trifle different from yours. You’ve noticed that some topics you take seriously, I handle lightly, while other topics you take lightly, I handle seriously. You might be saying, “I don’t find that funny,” or perhaps you’re saying “it’s not that big a deal, just lighten up.”
Opinions can be like that. We all have them, and nearly all of them are going to be different to some degree. So why do we act like someone has grown a second head when they give an opinion that doesn’t match our own? Well, I’m not going to lay the blame at any one thing, but I can say that part of the cause is that we’ve become enamored with our own opinions. We treat them almost as strongly as we treat a religious belief.
To be clear, I’m not talking about facts. A fact is not an opinion, and cannot be taken as such. If someone states something as a fact, and it is incorrect, it is perfectly fine to correct that error. If someone told me “It’s safe to eat uranium bars, and they probably taste like tangy chocolate,” I’m going to do my best to dissuade them from that very erroneous conclusion before they manage to kill themselves or others.
Opinions, though, are a different matter entirely. Opinions are beliefs that are based on information, or a lack thereof, and are usually subjective. Because of this, people often mistake opinions for facts, and facts for opinions. I would like to try and clear the air just a bit this fine evening, and I hope you’ll tag along with me.
Let me start by giving you two examples of a fact, and of an opinion:
“Bacon Candy is the best food ever to exist.” This is an opinion.
“Bacon often contains high levels of fat, sodium, and nitrates.” This is a fact.
Sounds easy, right? Of course you know the first statement is an opinion, because you realize not everyone is going to like bacon candy. You know the second statement is a fact because it can be proven scientifically.
It seems clear enough, but when you throw in surrounding factors, like for example, religion, or politics, then suddenly one person’s fact is another person’s opinion. We tend to hold our opinions most dear to our hearts. We make them a part of our identity, and in the process, they become a sacred belief. You might think to yourself, “I’m not the smartest person in the world, but I’m not stupid, and I wouldn’t just believe something without knowing it’s true, right?”
We all like to think that way. That’s why thinking critically, and being well informed, is crucial when forming such opinions. Our opinions can shape who we are. Granted, “I like paisley,” isn’t very life changing in and of itself, but the opinion “I think vaccines are deadly,” certainly are, and for the people you love, no less.
It is also very important that we keep our minds open to change. One of the reasons people seem so shocked and surprised when someone they’ve known for years has a different opinion than they do, is from the shock of learning something new about someone considered reliable, and trusted. Keeping your mind open and flexible to different ideas will help lessen the shock, and hopefully temper the reaction before it becomes unreasonable. I understand, we like to know things, we like to be sure of things, and to rely on our intuition and observation skills, but they can be wrong, or they can miss something everyone else sees.
I, myself, have a few opinions that others may find distasteful, silly, or even downright dangerous. I also have beliefs that some would find outright sacrilegious. Does that bother me that they don’t approve? In and of itself, no. As I often like to say, so long as someone doesn’t try to harm me or curb my rights, they’re free to think whatever they wish about me. Their disapproval does not mean I’m going to dislike them, or be against them in any way. That’s what I mean; just because someone thinks differently, holds a different belief; has a different opinion, doesn’t mean they have no other value.
That friend in your church whom you’ve sat next to for ten years? I bet they have some ideas and beliefs that would shock and surprise you; yet they’ve harmed no one, save your idea that they agree with you on everything, so don’t be foolish by tossing them out, or pushing them away. That’s not their problem; it’s your problem. You assumed that they thought “right,” and by “right,” you meant however you thought. That is a personal issue, and if you catch yourself pushing people away, or judging someone because of their opinions, stop for a moment and think about whether they’re legitimately harming others, or just your own pride.
Mark Twain stated it wonderfully, when he said, “we all know that in all matters of mere opinion that every man is insane–just as insane as we are…we know exactly where to put our finger upon his insanity: it is where his opinion differs from ours….All Democrats are insane, but not one of them knows it. None but the Republicans. All the Republicans are insane, but only the Democrats can perceive it. The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane. “
And with that to chew on, I ask you to be kind to one another, to love one another, to do your best to bring about a piece of compassion or generosity toward your fellow human being today. Let them know that they are loved; that they are not forgotten. Remember, too, that I love you.