Monday, November 9, 2009

I Am Like SO Sure

It started with a yada yada conversation about week-end plans with JE.  In the world of baseball and post-season play, everything is scheduled around The Game(s).  He began with, "When do the Angels and Yankees play?"

I took another swig of my Corona.(in the tradition of Seniors Citizens--which is my new club--we were at a Happy Hour when drinks are cheaper and occasionally there are free snacks.)

Sometimes I worry about him.  "What game?" The Angels had lost a fourth game, American League playoffs were over and it was time to move on.  Hoping for the Yankees to get their pinstriped butts kicked, but nonetheless time to get to "acceptance" already.

"The fifth game."

"There is no fifth game--the Angels lost."  I could see their stiff upper lipped I'm too big a boy to cry faces headed toward the clubhouse.

Another thing I've learned in this new Senior Club is that anxious looks from people around you are not uncommon.  Lose your keys.  Misplace a coffee cup or the date, forget a kid's name when the kid is yours--forget your own name--and people look...worried.

We were giving each other The Look.  JE is older than I am and a little hard of hearing, while my hearing is adequate and it's the vision going.  (Now Bush the Elder just showed up in my head which is not an unusual event--not Bush but the whole pinball thought process --nd he's going on about the vision thing. Never mind, though.  Really.)   Being as JE sometimes misses things, occasionally I have to set him straight--gently and with great respect for his feelings.

"Bet you five bucks, " I said.

He raised.  We'll skip the details but it was the kind of stake where no matter who loses both people win.

A handshake and we went back to our beers.  Nibbling veggie spring rolls and barbecued ribs--which were NOT free but were (in theory) at a reduced price.  I kept looking sideways at him--frankly a little worried.  How could he be so confused?

Of course he was giving me the same looks and asked me several times: "You really are sure about this, aren't you.?"

"Wouldn't bet the rent money, but, yeah, I am."  Wondering how he would take the inevitable news that he was wrong.

Naturally, you know what happened--or otherwise I wouldn't be writing this, now would I?  He was right  I had commingled the defeat of my team--the Dodgers--at the bats and gloves of the Phillies with the hard fought Angels' win over the Yankees in game four.  I had ended up with two sad stories when the second one hadn't happened yet.  (It did.) Right about the saddened faces, wrong about the team.

We watched the game and the Angels lost.  But the whole incident "gave me furiously to think," as Hercule Poirot would say.  (I have to drop these things here because most of the time nobody I'm talking to would get the reference and I don't have to worry if you get it or not.  Or even if I've misquoted it.)

I had had absolutely no doubt that I was right.  Not a speck, not a scintilla, not a crumb.  None.

With the  kind of certainty I had had , I might have risked the gallows.  Or at least mockery on the Drudge Report.

And I was wrong.  Completely, no excuse, and no shading wrong.  The only thing I had right were the names of the teams and there's no prize for that.

My point?  The strength of your conviction has nothing to do with being right.  And this brilliant insight is applicable in all kinds of ways.  Really.

First of all, I find my certainty unnerving.  I SAW the Angels win.  True, just on television,  but I saw it and then managed to flush it completely out of my mind.  I was almost literally blind--there was something I couldn't "see,," no matter how clear and plain it was.

That kind of scary wrong certainty makes me wonder about other things I'm damn sure about.

One of the arguments I've heard from both pulpits to religious books of varying academic weight actually rests on the whole strength of conviction argument.  Why would the disciples been fired with evangelical zeal, if they didn't know that Jesus was the resurrected, living Messiah? Early Christians faced the lions (who just about always won), torture, stoning, crucifixion--only a crazy person would endure that if they weren't absolutely, heart and soul deep convinced.

I have no argument with this assumption until it's taken to the next step which is to claim that this passionate belief proves that the tenets of Christianity are fact, well, fact.

The one has nothing to do with the other, any more than a suicide bomber's willingness to die proves anything about the "facts" of his/her whatever religion or ideology the dying is for.

I was so very sure about what I KNEW I knew that not one bit of doubt crept in--not one. I was only "concerned" over JE's feelings when the poor darling found out he was wrong.

These days in self-help lit and in political arguments, religious arguments, and on and on and on, doubt is of the devil.  You shouldn't ever doubt yourself, your abilities, and the in reachness of your dreams.  Don't waver or wobble in your faith, your ideas, your solutions.  Don't even waver on what you say you said--even if those damn lying words are on video--because strength of conviction is all.

One of my favorite sayings--going back to the days when I wrote advice for parents of teens--is "choose the hill you're going to die on."  Not every issue is the apocalypse and if you treat it as such--well, by the time the real thing shows up all your ammo and your credibility will be gone.

The trouble is that I think the real issue is becoming not what hill will you die on--but the various hills you will kill for.  Lord knows we've all seen more than enough of that--the World Trade Center is an obvious one, along with the Pentagon, suicide bombers, Oklahoma City, and acceptable "collateral damage" nearly everywhere.  Woops, my bad's are everywhere.  Didn't know that was a school, hospital, wedding party.  Sorry for the babies blown to pieces in daycare in Oklahoma, but they probably shouldn't have been in a government building anyway.  I could--and usually do--go on and on.  Health care, stalled budgets, hating your neighbor and sending your dog to poop in the middle of his/her lawn....

However, my daughter, KM, pointed out to me that most people want to read something short in a blog.  If they wanted a book, they'd buy one.

She has a point.

But I want to bring this around to my barefoot on the ground and mindful moments--even if  that epiphany at Happy Hour and home is old, cliche, and hardly even new to me. I mean, like wow: I can be wrong.  Facts can be not only discounted and ignored, but erased. My mind--your mind, anyone's mind--can try to reinvent reality to suit our desires and never register a conscious thought.

Believing really, really hard doesn't make anything so. Wishing doesn't make it so. Saying "make it so" isn't a guarantee either, unless, perhaps, you are a deity. And, if you are, why are you reading this?

Mindfulness is being present, present in the world as it is, not as I want it to be.  (That's another blog entirely.)  If I am present in the moment, PAYING ATTENTION, I might be less likely to delude myself.

If I am trying to be aware, I might be able to perceive the desires that I am focusing on that are simply that: desires.  Acknowledge them and let them pass. I wanted the Dodgers to win.  I'm not actually that fond of the Angels even though I want to be.

I can check my facts.

And, in matters of faith and belief where facts as we know them do not exist, humility would seem to be in order


  1. I'm in the midst of National Novel Writing Month, so shouldn't even be reading you, no less commenting. But you make me laugh and make me think, and you deserve an atta girl.


  2. "The strength of your conviction has nothing to do with being right."

    I saw this on your FBook profile and absolutely love it. Alas, the little blurb on the side doesn't incorporate the [Like] option.

  3. I missed yet another National Novel Month...oh well, the world will have to wait yet another year for my novel.

    Happy Hour...Gwen you are doing things backwards. When Bimbi and I were younger and sans kids we would go to happy hours and have a drink or two and try to fill up on the junk food. Don't know what happened aside from kids... Well maybe when Gregory heads out we can hit a happy hour or two or three. Happy Hour, how many commuter pilots lived on that they have Costco grazing and happy just does not get much better.

    One can have convictions out the --- and be totally wrong. I've been wrong (a lot, just ask Bimbi and Rachel and Gregory and anyone else that knows me) and I try to learn from my mistakes. I try to keep an open mind so that I can change my mind when I get further information...I try not to let my beliefs color what I learn but we all do. I try to keep my hard and deeply held convictions simple so that I don't have to keep changing them (never draw to an inside straight! NEVER!!).

    Long blogs if interesting are great...I read them since I can't afford to buy books or use the library (the fines do away with any cost savings). So at least up to a fair sized short story is great by me.