The Value of Relationships and Experiential Truth

10 July 2010 · 5 comments

Sometimes Kris wonders why I’m so easy-going, or why I don’t care passionately about politics like she does. Or a blog reader will wonder why I don’t get uptight about a comment. Or a friend asks why I don’t stand up for what I believe in. I’ve never been able to articulate it until now.

Colinmarshall recent posted this (awesome) Ask Metafilter question:

What in life did it take you a surprisingly long time to realize you’ve been doing wrong all along?

This question generated 750 responses from all over the map, both practical and philosophical. The response that resonated with me — the one that clarified for me why I’ve come to value relationships more than being right, than finding Absolute Truth — comes from joost de vries:

What I used to do wrong when I as younger is that I thought Truth was much more important than it is.

Yes, I could demolish a lot of positions by holding them up to the harsh glaring light of objective eternal truth. Hardly anything measures up actually. But then nothing much is left.

My discovery was that I realized that for me this seeking of ‘eternal truth’ had emotional and social underpinnings. Being happy and engaged with people would obviate the paramount need for logical truth.

Another take on this is that logic shows inconsistencies perhaps but can’t say anything about what is of value. What is of value is necessarily founded on subjective emotion and experience and thus inextricably linked with dependent truth, inconsistencies, experiential truths. Those people whose logic I criticized were much better in reasoning in this experiential logic than I was. I came to the conclusion that this kind of reasoning is an essential life skill to have a fulfilling life and that I had a lot to learn.

In other words: It’s better to be happy and have friends than it is to be right. Especially if what is “right” changes as you age.

This is why my personal motto is do what works for you. I really don’t believe there’s One True Way to anything. If you want to be Christian, be Christian. If you want to be Muslim, be Muslim. If you want to be atheist, be atheist. Choose the political party that makes you happy.

It saddens me when people feel the need to evangelize their positions, especially to the point that they say and do hateful things. What’s the point? What does that add to life?

The older I get, the more joy I get out of personal interaction, out of spending time with people of all ways of thought. What does it matter if my personal convictions are different than theirs? I can still learn from them and laugh with them. And it’s the learning and laughing that are important.

1 Dave July 11, 2010 at 06:50

This story is similar to what you are talking about.

http://www.pbs.org/thebuddha/blog/2010/mar/11/chicken-and-duck-ajahn-brahm/

2 Suzanne July 11, 2010 at 18:58

This is a perspective I’ve come to accept and hold close. I used to be “brutally honest” meaning that I would say what I wanted to say but not accept any responsibility for how it was taken; as in, I didn’t mean any harm and I can’t be responsible for how the person took my words to mean.

Now my motto is “Would I rather be nice or be right?”

I’ve always been one to not judge other people’s actions and motivations, as best as I can. Now I have better skills to help me feel less judged by others when it comes to communicating.

3 nyx July 13, 2010 at 01:55

hey I’m reading your personal blog now, hehe. Haha you and Kris sound like my bf and I. Okay he goes on reddit and debates with them about politics, I really don’t care about politics that much. I like that you are the type of person who says do what works for you, do you know how rare this is?

I think our society has mostly lost most understanding of what it means to be a critical thinker; it doesn’t mean agreeing with everything. Part of being a critical thinker is to understand peoples positions and that they’re different, and maybe sometimes you can learn from them! *shocker*

It also means that I don’t need to get angry that someone has a different opinion or look down on them for thinking a certain way. For example, I grew up around Christians most of my life, but now I’m an atheist/agnostic. I don’t really care what Christians do, what they believe, etc.

I only care how I live my life, and it makes me happy to no longer be religious. I’m so happy to not go to church anymore. Some atheists and agnostics get really angry when I don’t hate Christians, some accused me of not being a true “freethinker” lol.

Its kind of funny, but when you think about it, people can be really fanatical about anything…religion, atheism, politics, my bf is in programming and people get religious about programming languages in his field.

Some people get really obsessed and upset that others don’t think as they do, but I think all that does is just waste time, and put more divisions between humans, great post. =)

4 Claire July 13, 2010 at 15:44

I agree with you, but I have a slightly different spin on it. Most of the time when I find myself in a group conversation and one person (not a close friend) is spouting off this, that or the other that they wholly believe is true but I disagree with, I just don’t even bother saying anything. It just takes too much energy and time that I don’t feel like wasting. In the few instances that I have taken the time to make an argument for what I think, the other person usually just makes excuses or reasons off the cuff (and totally not having anything to back up what they’re saying) to make their opinion sound so much more accurate and true. It’s a never-ending circle: I feel that my opinion is right & I have logical arguments for it, but the other person is so entrenched in the fact that they are right, they don’t even listen to anyone else’s opinion. So, I keep quiet, not because I value a relationship, but because I just don’t have the energy to spare sometimes.

5 jdroth July 13, 2010 at 16:02

Interesting, Claire. That’s actually one of the reasons I don’t go out of my way to stay informed about current events. Some folks (like my wife, Kris) see this sort of intentional ignorance as dangerous. I don’t. I get plenty of news through osmosis. It’s difficult to escape the news here in the U.S. But by avoiding constant exposure to it, I’m a much happier, saner person. Plus, I can use the brain power I save by now paying attention to the news to do other stuff — like write.

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