Okay, so the first thing I’m going to do is contradict myself here. Some things are black and white. These things are what we “learn-ed folks” call “facts”. They are, unless you’re, say, living in a sci-fi-fi novel or in an alternate-reality TV show or in some schizophrenic’s conspiracy theory, black and white. Most people don’t consider shades of gray when contemplating them.
I’ll give you some examples of facts (in case you’re one of those people who slept through your entire schooling and missed all the lessons on fact versus fiction versus beliefs versus opinions). Here’s a fact: if I go without food for five hours, I get hungry. To ask me, “Are you sure?” is a bit like asking “Is it cold when the temperature is -15 degrees Fahrenheit?” A four-year-old might ask such a question, but even a ten-year-old accepts the fact that one probably isn’t going outside in a sundress when the temperature drops that far below freezing. Certainly, adults who haven’t been diagnosed with some sort of mental disorder would not ask such a question if they wanted to avoid embarrassing themselves. (I’m putting aside the sorts of philosophical exercises or contemplative questions in which one might engage, of course, because then we move into the realm of enlightenment, a place the majority of human beings don’t dwell). How do I know I’m hungry? I have evidence. My stomach growls; I feel uncomfortable; I might begin to feel a little light-headed; I might get a headache; I might snap my husband’s head off if he asks me where the stapler is, etc. And when I eat, all of that goes away.
Here’s another fact for you: I have two feet (as do most human beings). This isn’t something one gets to choose to believe or not to believe. When I buy shoes, I don’t buy one shoe or three shoes. I buy a pair of shoes, one for each foot. One can’t look at me and say, “You don’t have two feet. You have four feet.” There are only two appendages on my body that can be described as feet. To believe I have 4 feet would qualify me (or anyone else) for some serious psychological testing, since, you know we tend to diagnose chemical imbalances in the brain by looking for symptoms such as seeing four feet where there are only two (and we call it hallucinating). It also, most likely, would disqualify me from being hired to work anywhere. No one wants to hire someone who sees four feet where there are only two (well, unless they’re looking for an abstract artist or something).
I have a third fact to share: although it looks like the sun sets on (or goes down below) us every evening, and we describe it, very poetically, as such, the sun is not actually moving up and down in relation to this planet we call Earth. What is really happening is that Earth is slowly rotating (spinning, if you will), merely turning away from the sun, so it looks like the sun is going down and disappearing. It’s called an optical illusion, and again, if someone (who isn’t four years old) were to say, “I don’t feel the earth turning, and all I see is the sun going down, so I don’t believe that. It’s obvious the sun moves up and down in the sky,” most people would think that person was either a. stupid, b. crazy, or c. someone who slept through all science lessons in school about our planet, because we have solid scientific evidence to prove the Earth rotates. (Okay, I have to admit I had pretty boring science books and scary science teachers for most of my schooling, which means they managed to make a really cool and exciting subject into one I didn’t exactly sleep, but certainly daydreamed, through, when I wasn’t terrified of breaking a test tube, so I was a bit slow when it came to grasping this concept. I’m pretty sure I was an adult before I finally fully understood how our planet rotates on a daily basis to cause night and day). Then again, there is option d, which is that you happen to be one of those paranoid people willing to believe any conspiracy theory thrown your way by anyone at all, which means you’ve become convinced that “they” have, for some nefarious reason, planted fake evidence about the way our planet works. I can’t fathom what that nefarious reason might be (why I’m not a big conspiracy theorist), but I’m sure you know.
Those are just three of the countless numbers of facts those of us who are older than four, who are considered sane, and who understand evidence can point to when proving that some things are black and white. I’m not here to write about those things, though. I’ll leave that up to the lucky people who get to spend their lives discovering new and exciting facts every day. I’m going to address the gray, rather than the black and white. The squishy things. The things honest people will admit can’t be simplified, because they’re too complex (or — gasp! — humans just might not be smart enough to simplify them). What I choose to address very well might involve questions that will never (or never can be) answered by humans. Within these discussions, I hope to provide plenty of facts to illuminate how gray they are. I also hope to broaden my own horizons by inspiring thought and dialogue from others.
A word of warning from the very beginning, though. I’m not here to change minds. I realize what a foolish endeavor that is and will leave it up to those who enjoy wasting precious time. I’m also not here to have others try to change my mind (although I always love it when others help me understand something I didn’t before they pointed things out to me, and I often change my mind when given enough thoughtful, intelligent ideas to contradict a particular position I might have). My real goal is to foster understanding, to foster people’s ability to say, “Well, I’m not sure I agree with you, but I certainly understand your position far better than I did before I listened to you.”
But that game of insisting others think as I do? Of insulting them and cutting off all dialogue when they don’t? I’m long past — and extremely tired — of that. If you’re not. If you’re someone who is sure you have all the answers, sure you can prove me and anyone who comments here wrong, I’m pretty sure this isn’t where you want to be. No point in wasting your time with this blog. The rest of you? Please talk to me. I’m all ears!