There are two factors we all subconsciously weigh when confronted with new information; do I allow it to impact and change the way I think, or do I stand skeptical and not let it infringe on my current understanding of the world?
A simpler, and perhaps counter-rhetorical way of saying this, is: do I allow myself to be convinced or do I stand resolute.
The more I press this question into the molds that are people, the more I find emphasis on the obstinate. This attitude seems to stem from very emotional, and very good advice.
“Always fight for what is right!”
“Stand for what you believe in!”
While it’s hard to argue with such pathos (I, for one, will never support this new live action TMNT movie coming out), what it seems to have created is a generation of people who seem dead set on being hard set. I will call these people, i.e. you and me, the Internet generation. As a generation we have bafflingly developed an affinity for being polarizing.
I’d like to take a moment and recognize that stubbornness and proverbial lines in the sand are absolutely viable and crucial in some areas. Human rights and equality, to whatever extent you measure it, is a natural state of existence that we must achieve to survive as a species. Environmental protection, to whatever extent you deem necessary, is a must because quite frankly, on the other side of that sandy line is a dead Earth. Hollywood, to all extents imaginable, needs to stop creating these awful and unnecessary remakes.
Still with me? Okay. Moment over. Analysis time.
What I think we fear is our own gullibility. Understandably so. With the Internet comes mountains upon mountains of misleading content waiting to dupe us into posting “Kony 2012” on our Facebook pages. So we’ve developed within ourselves a series of filters to block out all the crap and pop ups that assault us every time we fire up the browser. For many, these filters have been created by a woven mesh of beliefs and preconceived knowledge (please note I did not put “notions”). The hope is that with these filters in place, we will keep ourselves from being fooled.
Yet it’s a fever dream that these filters might let us escape the gaping Sarlac pits of miscreant persuasion. We are all inherently pliable. Think about it, when was the last time your life was changed by something you read online? How often do you re-post articles because they have either solidified or altered your stance on an issue?
We are stubborn, semi-permeable sponges. We absorb mass amounts of information, yet filter out that which doesn’t sit well. It is knowledge via convenience. For this reason, I make a bold statement (that’s only partially a pun):
The ability for belief is lost in our generation.
And by lost I do not mean misplaced. Our ability to believe is wandering through the foggy woods that grows between the stubbornness of previous generations and the revelations of the future. Right now it’s misguided and misused.
We cherry pick what info we chose to accept as truth, accepting only that which supports our own understanding of the world. I’m not talking inconvenient truths here, either. The Internet generation thrives off of corrupt government, dying ecosystems and the malicious, sociopathic actions of other human beings. We eat that stuff up. What I’m talking about is building outdated walls, red brick by red brick, when we have granite and cinder and so many other materials at our disposal.
We in the Internet generation have the opportunity to become the most well rounded, complex human beings to ever exists yet we stunt ourselves with alignment. The spectrum of human existence is not good and bad, black and white. It’s not even grey. It’s a color we cannot yet fathom, spanning beyond the mixture of two extremes into dimensions, directions and variations that we will never see if we continue to think linearly.
Yes, fight for your beliefs and yes, strive to rid this world of archaic structures. By all means, take a stance on health care, gun control and affirmative action. What I ask of you though, beg of you, is don’t pick a team. Be a force of one. Ground your identity in the knowledge you have acquired and, when you gain more knowledge, change. Every learning experience, every piece of knowledge, either yay, nay or meh needs to make you a different person because ignorance is a synonym of stagnancy.
What I ask of you is this: allow yourself to be changed.
Take all opinions you come across, whether you agree with it or not, and let it convince you of something. It doesn’t have to be what it was intended to give you, but don’t walk away empty handed.
Take articles you do not believe to be true and actually disprove them before dismissing them. It’s easy to read or listen when you’re nodding from the first line, but see how your world expands after struggling through a world-shattering, epiphany-inducing epitaph to humanity that challenges your very existence at the moral/spiritual/intellectual level.
You can learn much more from the stories of your enemies than from those of your allies. All you have to do is stop fighting for just a moment. Stop being oppositional. Stop being polarizing. Stop categorizing and just think. Learn. Change.
Every experience, every new piece of information, every second of life makes you into a new person. We have just become so resolved within ourselves are that we find the prospect of looking in the mirror and seeing a new face horrifying. Yet we do. Every single time. So stop fighting your inherent pliability and start accepting that you won’t be the same person tomorrow. If you plan it right, you might like who turns up. All you have to do is allow yourself to become obsolete, because like it or not, you are.