The Inertia of Ideas
There's a certain shame to changing your mind. You get called a flip-flopper and a pussyfoot. You're said to have second thoughts and a change of heart. You're accused of beating around the bush, or copping out, or mincing words, or passing the buck. It's a mark of dishonor to admit that you once believed something that you no longer do, to the point that you're willing to commit to a façade built around that former belief.
But why is that the case? How did it become heroic, or even masculine to become a martyr for such a triviality? When did it turn into a point of pride to turn and say that you have not progressed in your way of thinking for your entire life? Where does the 'I told you so' sentiment go when it turns out that you were actually wrong? And who but yourself can you blame it on when you act on something you definitively know to be wrong?
The inertia of ideas is foremost among the problems with which people struggle, though it's likely that many aren't even cognizant of how it harms them. Ideas like to continue at their current pace, which is (more often than not) at terminal velocity. Never mind that going at such a speed often strips away the supporting structure, leaving nothing but the core behind. Forget that it's almost impossible to stop, and when a stop comes, it'll be in the form of a jarring crash than a steady slowdown. But remember that the conatus of your idea keeps pushing it against that terminal limit, such that it's no longer fighting against some wall or barrier, but rather the fundamental limititself.
Ideas, in my mind, are a misappropriation of passion. When we live in a society where people with 'passionate ideas' and 'fiery feelings' are in high demand, we create an infrastructure where success and failure becomes binary. Either that idea – the one travelling as fast as it can – punches through the resistor that holds it back, or it rebounds with twice the energy, knocking out the shooter. The best use of passion is when it's funneled into implementation of the idea as opposed to the idea itself. The argument, not the issue. The work, not the cause. Because the world is rife with ideas, and everyone makes the mistake of always asking for even more. There's a considerable lack of clamor for actual action itself, and an even bigger dearth of those who are good at it.
We've all continued to indulge in a fight – with a friend or loved one – long past its shelf life for the simple reason that succumbing to vulnerability is apparently not an option. We consider it a matter of 'defeat' to apologize, that it gives that friend some manner of capital to use at a later time. We've also started a project simply because we wanted to, only to see it flame out because our conviction was misplaced. We regarded it the action of a 'quitter' to simply walk away even though we could see the sparks beginning to take form.
We've criticized leaders and politicians for catering to people and 'telling them what they want to hear' in spite of what positions they've taken in the past. But isn't that how it should be? They *should* take popular ideas and beliefs from others to meld into their platform and make it better. We've praised religion for taking the smallest possible steps toward a modern way of thinking. All this, despite religion's insistence on books that by definition have no avenue to amendment.
When I find myself at odds with an idea that someone else presents, I always think to myself whether it's because their idea is bad, or because it's in opposition to one of mine. I always assume that others are competent at whatever they do and then reframe what they're saying in that context, believing that they have a genuine belief in and reason for holding their position. And I imagine how my life would change if I lived their idea, asking myself, "is this that which I so feared?"