Tag Archives: grey areas

Sitting with the Bad Guy

A student had to write an essay in response to this quote:

Said student didn’t do so well with the essay, partly because they didn’t understand the concept of “easy and preferred answers”.

If human life had accurate easy and preferred answers, philosophers wouldn’t exist. Argument wouldn’t exist. There would be no need for thought.

Much as it may seem otherwise, I am easily bored. (It’s difficult to notice because I am also easily entertained by my own imagination, which can be whipped out at the drop of a hat. Do what you want with this statement.) The process of thinking is enjoyable to me: the result may be fine, but the means of getting there is what I appreciate. Maybe that’s why I never excelled at math: correct answers are not as pleasurable as good answers.

I also appreciate “liberal education”. I don’t want to miss anything interesting.

On Twitter and blogs, I follow an odd assortment of people. Very few of them are people I agree with—or necessarily like. I want to read about things I don’t know about. I want to read what the ex-cons and the anti-contact MAPs and the disgraced editors have to say. I want to read what the rabble-rousers and prejudiced people think. After all, “[y]ou can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in” (Arlo Guthrie). It behooves me to become familiar with the light, the dark, and that wonderful, explorable, murky grey area in between.

A few months ago, my daughter phoned me. She’d just witnessed her first car accident, and she’d been sitting with the person who was at fault–the crasher–as the victim had a whole slew of people with him. The crasher was having a bit of a rough time with what had just happened, so my daughter sat on the curb and listened until the authorities showed up. My daughter said the crasher was pale and shaking, obviously in shock: to my daughter, there were clearly two victims, and victims should not be left to flounder.

A very long time ago, I was in the same situation as my daughter’s brief companion: I was once a crasher. Like the crasher in my daughter’s situation, I knew I was at fault and was trying to process everything while standing alone on the street corner. The priest from the nearby church came to stand with me. We didn’t talk much; it was just easier to get through that waiting period with someone close by.

I was thinking of this as I read my student’s (failure of an) essay. They had used “right” and “wrong” as adjectives for “answers”, and I realised how rarely those terms are appropriate, in my experience. Perspective is a definitive thing, and the human race has yet to share a single perspective.

Naturally, it would be very nice if everyone would share my perspective–or would that bore me?

I believe we have the right to judge things as “correct” or “incorrect”, “good” or “bad”; however, personally, I want to be quite sure I’ve got all the information before I make that judgement. I’m not ashamed to change my mind–and I’ll gladly do so if I find it necessary–but it’s that whole ounce-of-prevention-pound-of-cure thing. Backpedalling is like work.

 

 

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