Thursday, August 21, 2008

Losing the argument

I was going to write today about the differences between "religious" and "spiritual."  After starting the piece, I decided that it probably wasn't worth it.  I shouldn't muddy so volatile a topic by employing the mechanical definitions of words as opposed to the deep emotions that they invoke.

The reason I decided not to bother is because I have no faith in people, no matter how educated or intelligent, to engage in an actual debate without becoming asses.  Which, when one pauses to think about it, is the whole problem with religion anyway.

In my view, the arguments could all be settled if people weren't so entrenched in their own points of view.  Any debate must be entered into with the pre-admitted prospect of losing, of allowing for the possibility of conversion to the opponent's idea.

Instead, people enter into a debate for the purpose of espousing and supporting their own opinions.  This isn't a discussion, or even a debate.  Pulpits were made for that kind of declaration.  And political podiums.  How I would love to watch just one political debate where one participant made a point and the opponent paused for a moment and then responded, "Well said.  You're quite right on that."

Conversion is a powerful thing, not to be trivialized.  Most people, in my opinion, would not allow for the possibility of it.  The feeling is remarkable, indescribable.  All of the allegories in the world won't describe a fraction of the sensation.

One's worldview is overturned.

One's life is reordered.

A new platform for continuation is created.

All of this happens at once.  "Epiphany" is defined as "a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something."  That's what conversion is.

I'm not for a moment suggesting that losing a debate and being opened to a new viewpoint is tantamount to a paradigm shift or religious experience, but they share common qualities, just on a reduced scale.

I enter into any discussion hoping to lose.  The longest debate I ever engaged in, and with the most people, was to settle my religious strife.  It lasted 15 years and involved dozens of people over that time.  I had built up my walls and no one could tear them down; no one could defeat my side of the argument.  Then, one day, during a discussion with dear friend, i earned the missing piece.  I lost the argument finally, resorted the Johniverse and got on with it.

It was a profound conversion that I would not have had if not for wanting to lose.  I was holding to my own point of view so tightly that my life was slipping through my hands.

Anyway, not that I'm loftier than anyone else, but people don't enter into arguments to lose.  They enter into them to espouse and win.

That's dumb.

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