There’s a quote by Vonnegut I’m going to have tattooed on my body soon:
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
Or: we choose what we believe, so we must be careful about what we believe.
Make no mistake: people choose what they believe and then adopt those beliefs as truth—whether or not they are in fact true.
Perhaps the best example of this is someone who supports Donald Trump.
Because Trump’s given them every indication he’s not a good person. He’s clearly compromised by Russia (for some reason), his cabinet and family practice open corruption, and his policies are bad for everyone who’s not extraordinarily rich and well connected. Moreover, he’s just not fit as a human for the office of President. It’s obvious.
But no matter: he’s their guy. To the end. They believe he’s good, and nothing is going to sway them from that belief, whether it be facts, logic, morality—even allegiance to their own country. 77% of Trump supporters think that he should stay in office even if it’s proven he conspired with Russia aka committed treason.
That’s pretty bad.
But it’s important to point out that being liberal and/or intelligent is no insulation to this dynamic.
I had a conversation recently with several women I know to be extremely smart, and yet when I simply asked that we be rational and logical in our arguments—that we allow data and reason to matter—they couldn’t agree to that. They basically argued that they shouldn’t agree with what I was saying no matter what. So I stopped arguing, like: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Likewise, a good friend who’s a member of the academia—a professor of English and poetry—made an argument on our last camping trip that human societies and behavior are entirely constructed and dependent on nothing other than what’s come before. That hundreds of thousands of years evolving to survive is not a factor in how human beings behave, make decisions, and form communities. He believes that human societies are artificially constructed and nothing about human life is inherent or fixed.
When I pointed out the serious flaws in his argument: sexual dimorphism, sexual behavior—hypergamy, tribalism, fight/flight, or the fact that there isn’t one society in which women are more violent than men (not one—and no such society is known for certain to have existed, please don’t cite the Amazons), I was met with arguments he knows to be logical fallacies and the insistence his belief was still correct.
Upton Sinclair once said, “It’s hard to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” I’ll amend that a bit: it’s hard to get someone to understand something when their identity is tied to believing the opposite.
And hey, I should mention: I’m not always right.
I don’t have an exclusive license on the truth and I’m most certainly wrong from time to time.
We’re all susceptible to our own experiences, whatever they are, and it’s extremely difficult to prevent those experiences from producing biases in how we view the world.
We believe what we want to believe.
The problem is that when those beliefs are fundamentally untrue we end up having to fight against them.
The truth we cannot accept becomes our enemy.
For example, if my belief that swipe/online dating (SOD) sucks was wrong—like people were meeting their perfect love every day on Bumble or Tinder or OKCupid, and it was easy to enter into a long term relationship by swiping away—I would immediately lose credibility with my audience. People would rightly think: this guy is full of shit—why should I listen to him?
A: if that were true, you shouldn’t.
That doesn’t make me a genius either. Just someone who saw the simple truth and said something about it.
Go back to the example of my friend—a huge portion of academia believes what he believes: that human society’s are a blank slate and the only reason we are how we are is that we are copying what has come before.
Think about how much time and effort these people are going to waste. Some will end up dedicating their entire careers to spinning their wheels on that singular false belief, and in the annals of history, people will look back on them with pity.
Actually, it’s more likely no one will give a shit and they’ll just be forgotten.
As Trump would say: sad.
With that understanding then—that any truth I don’t accept becomes my enemy—I make every effort in my life to be open to and discover the truth so I can more easily navigate the world.
I bring this up because the purpose of this blog is to help people, whether that’s illuminating higher truths or understanding the nature of our society in Rants and Raves, healing our bodies and minds in Health and Wellness, or navigating the difficult world of modern dating in Manchild. Every blog I publish is an attempt to illuminate the truth so that people can benefit. Some of it’s fairly mainstream. Some of it’s not. Will I get it right 100% of the time? Of course not. But when I get it wrong you can bet your ass I’ll issue a correction.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that you can take it or leave it. You, dear reader, choose what you want to believe and nothing I write can change that. If you think I’m full of shit, fine—just understand that if I’m not, that truth becomes your enemy.
This is one of the reasons we should all read more: because it’s an opportunity to learn truths we otherwise would have missed.
We choose what we believe. But understand also:
1) You are not your beliefs.
It’s the truth.
We are sentient beings capable of unbelievable brilliance and, at the same time, dumb animals—slaves to instinct and impulse. We are minds and languages and physical bodies. We are lovers and warriors. We are mostly good, but in all of us some evil lurks, and some end up catering to that dark side more than others.
(If you’re wondering, I’m a Slytherin. Not because I’m evil though—it’s because I appreciate power and ambition. And no, I would not have allied with Voldemort.)
We are a lot of things, but we are not our beliefs. Beliefs are malleable. They change. You don’t believe now what you believed as a child or even 10 years ago. And you shouldn’t.
Because you are not your beliefs. You are you, and that is all.
2) Habits entrench belief.
If you watch Fox News every day, no matter how smart you are it’s probably going to seem like Donald Trump is a great guy and there’s an unfair media bias against him. Because that’s the line, right? But that false belief isn’t formed out of intention—it’s formed out of habit.
One of the first people to use the ketogenic diet to lose weight was a marathon runner who ended up with diabetes. His habits, arguably, were good: he ran and ate a low fat diet. But the reality was that those habits caused him to become insulin resistant and eventually, develop diabetes. It was only when he got that final diagnosis and had to change his habits that he was able to change his beliefs.
My foundational belief is that the truth matters, and therefore, whenever it reveals itself to me, I pay attention and change my thinking. I’m constantly trying to learn and grow and take in the wisdom of others. I’m open to new ideas, even if they challenge my beliefs or contradict what I want to believe. I’m curious and interested in how things work, who people are and what they’ve experienced. And in the time I’ve had this shift in perspective, I’m much happier and more content than I’ve ever been.
Anyway, what I share on this blog is an attempt to convey that learning—those truths that I’ve been able to discover or that others have shared with me. For anyone who’s read Cherry City or the few who’ve previewed Say Yes, you know it’s true of my fiction as well. Hemingway once wrote: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” I stick to that as best I can.
But whether or not it’s of much use is up to you.
Because we choose what we believe. So we must be careful about what we believe.