” I don’t agree with [that]--“
”It’s just how I was raised.” “That’s how I grew up.” “That's what I was taught.”
So, I have a bit of a problem with this defense, this concept!
I don’t have a problem with values and beliefs – we all have them; I think in a lot of ways a lot of them are similar if not the same. Most human beings just want the same things out of life, anyway. Our values and beliefs help to shape us, help us make conscious and unconscious choices, guide our words and actions. They are important.
And in many ways, they’re definitely formed by the way we’re brought up. Our parents have values and beliefs we either emulate or reject; our schools and teachers and friends have their own. Experience becomes a part of us (LEVEL UP!), and frankly, that’s what experience is for: to bring us lessons and data that become a part of our inner selves, one more building block in the fabulous construction of me or you, the complicated monstrosity that is us.
My problem with saying “Well, that’s just what I was taught” is that it suggests that you have stopped learning.
It is a way for people to discard and disregard beliefs, facts, assumptions they’re uncomfortable with. It is a way to dodge a self-examination and reassessment, a way to avoid a challenge. It implies a person has stopped learning, stopped growing; as if life’s valuable lessons stop at the age of [x]teen and anything that happens afterwards should and can be processed through that very first series of filters one built at a time too young to really know anything. It implies you know everything you need. It implies you’re learned it all. It implies you’re done.
And are you really? Have you really? I mean really?
“I was taught that [that] was wrong.” I believe that; I’m not even infringing on your right to believe that. What I’m asking is, have you really never re-evaluated that? Thought about it? Attacked the belief a little bit to see what unfolds?
When I was young, I was taught that touching the stove was wrong, but now I make a mad mean chili and I don’t see anything wrong with that.
I know that comparing chili to a deeply intimate personal belief is a pretty big step and Fuck that noise, my chili is awesome.
Is the thought of re-evaluating that belief so very scary that you’re going to put it behind that protective fence, keeping the mad dogs out, never even letting the inquisitive little kitten in?
I learned a lot of things growing up. I was taught a lot of things too – some right, some wrong. And I was exposed to a bunch of values. But you know what? I am still learning, still growing, still seeing. I’m expanding my horizons and breaking down my walls, I’m identifying my strengths and acknowledging my weaknesses, I’m examining my privileges and challenging my worldview. I’m making observations, I’m taking new data, I’m recording freak occurrences and tracking the results. I am a student of this gigantic fucking thing called life and I’m not sure I’m ever going to stop learning – learning how right I was, how wrong I am, how smart I can be and how dumb I can feel.
No one person knows everything. This is obvious! But you also don’t develop a life’s-worth of answers until, well, until you’ve lived a life. Is your life done? Are you done collecting treasures and memories and lessons? Are you done defeating enemies and gaining experience? Is that your maximum level? Are you really going to stop there?
Because I’m not. I continue to grow. I’m not sure I’ll ever stop learning. I hope I never stop changing.
And if I believe something, if I’m going to put the weight of this fantastic sparkly obnoxious brain of mine behind something, I want it to be because I really do believe it, not just because I grew up hearing or seeing or learning things one way. I’d like to be sure; I’ve been wrong before.
I have a deep problem with people who just stop learning. And I don’t mean learning like school; I’m talking about learning from life, learning from things around you, watching shit go down and new things come up and asking questions and changing your mind. We’re allowed to change our minds; it’s one of the most beautiful and difficult things about being human.
It doesn’t make your beliefs any less, at this very moment: it simply makes them modifiable. They are transmutable, transient; apply enough heat and force and pressure and maybe something else will come out. Maybe not; maybe you’re right, and you’ll get diamonds. But I want people to own their beliefs. Give yourself agency.
Make those beliefs your own. Think them through; stand by them, put your name on them in (semi-)permanent marker and glitter paint, tuck them in the pocket of your favorite jeans. Wear them out. Make them fit.
If you disagree with me and it’s because you truly believe it and can explain, defend, can honestly tell me with your heart’s-soul: – man, that’s awesome, that’s incredible, and I respect you. If you disagree with me because you’ve stopped learning, stopped thinking, stopped looking – if you disagree because of a belief you haven’t stopped to challenge and own and make yours? – I won’t argue, but I am not sure I can respect that, either.
Now come have some chili and let’s talk about [this].