Friday, June 12, 2015

(Almost) All My Controversial Opinions in One Place

I’m on social media a lot for both pleasure and work, and the temptation to speak my mind about things other people will disagree with sometimes gets overwhelming. Rather than post things 140 characters at a time, I’m putting them all up here to 1) get them off my chest and 2) make myself a handy target for concentrated outrage so I can ignore it all in one place.

In no particular order, here goes:

The story of your life is about what you pay attention to. Pay attention to the people and things you love. Ignore the people and things you don’t. Fix what you can. Say yes as often as possible. Start every disagreement with the thought, “Could I be wrong here? And what are the consequences if I am?”

We should all live as our best selves, whatever we believe that to be. The overwhelming press coverage of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition makes me feel I’ve been trapped on an airplane next to someone who wants to tell me about her hysterectomy. It is none of my business. I didn’t ask, and I don’t want to know. Please let me get back to my book. Do you mind if I put my headphones on?  

None of my business is a good way to get through life, except when you see someone in pain. Other people’s pain is everybody’s business. Other people’s joy is not, especially if it doesn’t interfere with your own.

Humor is based on shared assumptions, because it’s about surprise and inappropriate juxtapositions. When you ask, “Don’t you have a sense of humor?” you're really asking, “Don’t you share my assumptions about how the world’s supposed to work?”

We need to reinstitute mandatory national service: two years for everybody between high school and college, no exceptions except for profound disabilities. It doesn’t have to be military service alone. People could choose health care, infrastructure, education, community policing, sanitation. But we must have a system that brings people from disparate parts of our society together for a common goal, and shows people the work that goes into keeping it all running.

We need to have a national conversation about why we have police, and what we expect from our police forces. Some places probably need to disband their current police forces and rebuild them from scratch. Same goes for the prison system. No private citizen needs an assault weapon.

My personal pro-life credentials are pretty hard to challenge, but I don’t want to live in a society that enforces laws against abortion.

If you didn’t like a book, you didn’t like it. That’s fine. I don’t care for most seafood. That does not mean seafood is bad. I’m not going to go online and post one-star reviews of seafood restaurants — why would I do that? I’ll just go to a steakhouse instead. Bookstores work the same way.

Nothing is boring if you pay close enough attention. Boredom is exhaustion, depression or laziness.

We all start from a position of ignorance. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s nothing to be proud of, either. Until we admit our ignorance, we can’t learn what we need to know.

If Fox News or MSNBC is your only news source, you’re keeping your world very small. That can feel like a safe thing to do, but the bigger world and the broader conversations are happening without you.

 If God is infinite, omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent, our feeble human brains aren’t big enough to comprehend the true and complete nature of God. Sorry, we’re not. Every attempt is an approximation. I have my way, which is about feeling part of the community that produced me. You have a different way. God is big enough to welcome us all. If God can walk the earth as a living man — which I believe — God can also be a many-armed woman, or a bird-man made of gold. We can’t know. The whole point of faith is that it isn’t knowledge.

Most of what we can know comes down to ratios and patterns, things we identify as recurring. Color charts, musical scales, units of measurement.

Spelling counts. Vocabulary matters. The way we speak changes the way we think. We can feel things we have no words for, but we cannot know things we don’t have words or symbols for. Our names for things change the way we see them. The first time I heard my nephews say “firefighter” when I would have said “fireman,” I almost cried.

Because this is true, we need to be careful about the words we use for terrible things. Inconveniences and annoyances aren’t traumas, they’re part of life in the mosh pit. If you call a single unwelcome remark “harassment,” you are interfering with justice for the people who are truly harassed. Poison's in the dosage.

Last but not least, “I disagree” does not mean “You’re wrong.” Repeat that. “I disagree” does not mean “You’re wrong.” One more time: “I disagree” does not mean “You’re wrong.”

Thanks, I feel better now. Feel free to disagree in the comments, which will be moderated.