Thursday, April 13, 2017

The hero I never believed in

I once heard in a communication class that the test of a truly educated mind was to be able to hold two opposing ideas at once without losing the ability to function. Much later, in trying to look up the origin of the quote, I read that it was actually a common misquotation of something different that someone said. But I now forget who that someone was, as well as what that someone really said. Part of that might be because I prefer to believe the misquotation.

I think I once heard in a literature class that internal conflict is what makes characters interesting. I like that one too.

In intro to psychology I can remember learning about "cognitive dissonance," which—if I remember rightly—is really the same as the above two ideas. Only where the rhetors and writers see it as a mark of education and character, respectively; psychologists see it as a form of neurosis. I don't like the psychological perspective as much.

That's because I sometimes think I'm the most internally conflicted and cognitively dissonant person to have existed outside the pages of a Dostoevsky novel. Except when I disagree with that appraisal of the situation.

In all seriousness, though. There have been few times in the past decade that I haven't awakened every other morning and been absolutely horrified at where I was and what I was doing. And yet, the other set of consecutive odd mornings, I wake up and pursue those things with a grim sense of inevitability only attributable to my staunchly Calvinist upbringing.

I've had thoroughly thought-through objections to very much of what I believe since I was 12 or 13—many of which I've never been able to fully reconcile. But while most people I know had no trouble either changing their beliefs—or at least not acting on them—I've never been able to do anything but follow them to their rational ends (often thoroughly objecting the whole way, naturally).

This has sometimes been to the horror of authority figures in my life who—I later realized—only invited foreign missionaries to my youth groups because they thought it would help give me a reasonably global perspective of Christianity; only made me read stacks of books about the evils of casual sex because they wanted me to make reasonably conservative relationship choices and only made me listen to countless hours of conservative talk radio because they thought it would make me reasonably involved in politics. Well, as it turns out, the joke was on them. Despite having strong objections to very much of it, I proceeded to pursue all of it to its linear conclusion with an abandon that surprised all parties involved.   

You see, I have this amazing tendency of becoming the hero I never really believed in—and in some cases even disdained. And usually my opinion of him doesn't change much for the better when I become him.

So, you see, I'm conflicted.

I hope that makes me interesting. I would like if it makes me educated. But it probably just makes me crazy.

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