Tuesday, December 20, 2005

No Doubt

Doubt is easy when it's not a matter of survival: We are as skeptical as we can afford to be, and it is easiest to be skeptical about things that do not fundamentally sustain us.

- from On Love by Alain de Botton
Skimming through this book again and I came across this quote, which I think rings so true. De Botton was talking about love, but from my experience, the principle applies well to the beliefs we're brought up with, those ideas we've steeped in since birth. It's sometimes easier to hang onto those, rather than shift the psychological weight it would take to alter those beliefs. Our doubts are often repressed, I think, but the immensity of the potential ramifications of exploring those doubts. Some part of us knows not to "go there" because changing our mind on a particular subject could ostracize us from people we're close to or force uncomfortable changes in our lives. I think this explains why progress in human understanding comes so slowly.

Tangetially, I reviewed this book ages ago on Amazon and was pleasantly surprised to review a kind and self-deprecating email from the author out of the blue, thanking me for my thoughts. One of the wonderful things about the Internet, they way we're truly "hitched to everything."

Another great thought on love I came across recently:
The absolute value of love makes life worth while and so makes Man's strange and difficult situation acceptable. Love cannot save life from death; but it can fulfill life's purpose.

- Arnold Toynbee, "Why and how I work," 1969
As adults, we encounter a lot of cynicism about love and we even learn to speak about it with a degree of embarrassment; but the older I get, the more I'm convinced of the importance of not growing cynical about love, but of better understanding it. So much of what is described as love seems so unhealthy, and perhaps that's why people have grown so cynical about it. So, instead of redefining love in healthy, productive, nurturing terms, many of us simply retreat to our corners, commit ourselves to lives of isolation (even within a relationship), and resort to describing the opposite gender (or humans in general) with the worst sort of stereotypes. I can't help but think that these tendencies play out into all sorts of societal problems, the roots of which people are often fond of politicizing.

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