Put Some Gay In Your Day, Dallas!

Thinking Is (Or Should Be) Believing

One of the many things about the English language for us to love is the plethora (profusion, abundance) of words that have the same meaning, but lack any real connotative differences between them.  For example, I like the word “plethora” better than “profusion” or “abundance,” for no real reason.  It’s just a preference, although I would say that talent comes in profusion and stupidity comes in abundance.  Particularly these days.

Daddy had a plethora of clichés (platitudes, tropes) to be trotted out for any conversation.  As the years have gone by, I’ve realized that some of them weren’t really hackneyed expressions, but had deeper meaning perhaps than was obvious.  That understanding has resulted in my elevating the better ones to the level of “truisms,” as they are honest and not as banal (trite, insipid) as I once thought.

While Mother and I would torture some piece of gossip at the dinner table to try to determine why someone had done something or other, Daddy would focus on the meal at hand.  We would rattle on and on about whatever it was, which I now believe to be foundational to my tendency to overthink things as an adult.

When Daddy’s lack of interest in the subject at hand moved to being bored by it, he would look up and say, “Well, people do what they want to do.”  Then, he would return to his dinner, and Mother and I knew it was time to change the topic of conversation.  

But people really do pretty much what they want to do.  Perhaps not the things that they don’t have the means of doing, like money or talent, but given the power of choice, most folks choose what they want.  Asking why people do something, in that light, invites wasted effort.  Better to ask why someone wants to do something, which might be more productive.

I have found that Daddy’s truism has an auxiliary (supplementary, appurtenant) meaning—people believe what they want to believe.  Why someone wants to believe something is a valid and even intellectually honest—if done honestly—exercise. 

However, it isn’t an auxiliary of that truism that people think what they want to think, as thinking and believing are quite separate things.  Haven’t most of us at one time or the other started a sentence with “I don’t want to think that…” when the saying of it implies that one has already thought it?

As much as I loathe (hate, detest) the expression “thinking outside the box,” doing just that is hard, if not impossible, for so many of us.  When our thinking is limited by the box of beliefs that we have already accepted—because we want to, according to that auxiliary truism—it should come as no surprise that any conclusion we arrive at is constricted subjectively by those same beliefs.

In that case, it’s not thinking.  It’s a mental masturbation of self-justification leading to a self-serving orgasm (climax, culmination) rather than an open analysis that could lead to an epiphany (revelation, insight).  

Daddy also liked to drop that old chestnut (bromide, groaner) about birds of a feather flocking together.  He even provided his own auxiliary for it:  Birds without feathers go by themselves.  I never got that one.

But now that I think about, all those flocking birds have a lot in common.  I suppose that’s why they flock (herd, gather) together in the first place.  The featherless birds have less in common with their counterparts with all that plumage.  

Going by themselves, so to speak, requires them to think for themselves, decide for themselves, and do for themselves.  Even when they come across another featherless bird, I would think they’d not want to give up being their own bird just to flock with others similarly situated.

We’re humans, not birds, and we’re social animals, whether we like it or not.  Almost all of us belong to one flock or the other, having to do with everything from race to religion to politics and beyond.  There’s even overlap to the flocks, which makes thinking like a bird without feathers even harder to do.

It may be that 2022 could be a year in which actually thinking as the means of determining what to believe and do, rather than basing those beliefs and actions on what we want, is more critical than usual.  Sacred cows be damned, I say.  This is not the time for pussyhats, MAGA caps, or tin foil hats.  It’s time to get that thinking cap out of the closet or the attic or wherever it is.  

Or get a new one from Amazon, if it’s lost.  One can buy anything there.