We have often talked about what is perhaps the only thing that unites or divides us as humans and that is those things that we uniquely and individually believe to be true.
We tend to get along just fine with those whose beliefs parallel ours and not so much with those who are so intellectually challenged that they have beliefs that differ from, perhaps even oppose, ours.
A graphic example of differing beliefs is unfolding before our very eyes in the little hamlet known as New York.
At issue is whether a mosque should be built on a lot two blocks from Ground Zero, the site of the worst ever terrorist attack against the U.S.
The proponents of building the mosque are arguing for its construction and operation on the grounds that it will benefit the entire community, serve to alter many of the misconceptions that exist about the Muslim religion, stand as a symbol of peace and represent community oneness.
Their opponents are claiming that this is simply another example of people of the Muslim faith thumbing their noses at America, will further contribute to the Islamization of the U.S., shows complete insensitivity to the horror of September 11 and serves no purpose other than to rub salt into a deep and painful wound.
The complexity of this debate is pitting Christian groups against Christian groups, Muslim groups against Muslim groups, Jewish groups against Jewish groups and, in watching this debate develop on TV I swear I even saw a dachshund belonging to a representative of one side, barking aggressively at a breed mate on the other side.
Such polarization is not uncommon in our society and, indeed we can witness it daily if our lives are so empty, so pathetic, so void of raison d’être that we tune in to live coverage of parliamentary discussions.
There is a point to this, and here it is: We all have strong beliefs – opinions about which we feel strongly.
So strongly do we feel about these opinions that we frequently convince ourselves that our beliefs are, in fact, facts.
And so strongly do we believe in the fact that our beliefs are true facts that we will fight really, really hard for them.
We end relationships over our beliefs, we become violent over our beliefs, heck, we even go to war over our beliefs.
Because they aren’t just beliefs, they’re OUR beliefs and therefore they are FACTS.
So to further understand all this I contacted Mr. Webster and asked him to define the word “fact.”
As expected, he weighed in mightily on the topic. Here’s what he said: Fact, fakt, n. (L. factum, a thing done, a deed, a fact, from facio, to do or make, a stem which appears in many words, as affect, affair, counterfeit, defeat, difficult, faculty, profits etc.).
My eyes were glazing over and I was just about comatose when I finally came to this part of his explanation: Anything done or that comes to pass; something known to exist; a statement based upon objective reality.
And as we’ve discussed many times before, there are very few things in life that constitute true, absolute, irrefutable facts.
There are very few things that are known to exist and that are based upon objective reality.
Here’s the means test.
Take any opinion you have into a lab, give it to an elderly, white haired German accented gentleman wearing a white coat.
Have him take your opinion and place it into a Bunsen burner and place a flame underneath it. When it reaches a temperature of twelve hundred degrees Celsius, ask him to pour it into a second bowl which contains the opposing viewpoint and which too has been heated to the same temperature.
Now watch closely. If your overheated opinion completely destroys your opponents and if you can replicate this experiment in independent labs all over the world, your opinion will now be considered to be a fact.
Conversely if your opponents opinion prevails each time, your opinion will be viewed as just plain wrong.
If, as will almost always be the case, the end result becomes an equally mixed concoction of your belief and your opponents, then your opinion will be seen as nothing more than an opinion – to which you are undoubtedly entitled. Just as your opponent is equally entitled to his/hers.
So argue all you want for your opinion. Just remember, while arguing, that it’s only an opinion.
And that’s a fact.
Till we read again.
P.S. Last week I mentioned that I am having a book signing this coming Wednesday, September 8th, 2010, from 3pm – 6pm at Self Connection, #125, 4611 Bowness Road NW.
I will be conducting a 20- 30 minute presentation on the teaching of my book Life Sinks or Soars – the choice is yours, followed by a group discussion and Q&A session.
There is no charge for this presentation. If you wish to attend, please call Self Connection at (403) 284-1486 to register.
Please drop by if you can. I’d hate to become the next Maytag repairman