Controversy Matters Not

"Religion is like a pair of shoes... Find one that fits for you, but don't make me wear your shoes."
-George Carlin
About a week ago, I was watching a Minecraft livestream from a YouTuber that I watch. He was playing on the same server that he uses for YouTube, but the point of the livestream was to gather resources and do other boring things that people wouldn't normally want to watch a whole video about. He livestreamed it (as opposed to doing it off camera) so that he could have a conversation with his audience while he did the boring stuff, and the conversation would make the normally boring things become interesting. During the discussion, the topic of politics came up. I joined the livestream late, so the most I caught of his political opinions was that he didn't support Donald Trump. (Big surprise there. :P) But I did see the chat bar on the right, and I saw a number of people using that quote from above and applying it to politics.

This brings me to the topic at hand, which is that of controversy. I've found that many people seem to have a similar philosophy to the one from the quotation above. That is to say, the belief that political and religious views are personal, and should not be shared, except perhaps among those who agree with your beliefs. Shoes make you feel comfortable, because they conform to your feet. They change according to your shape and therefore are good at making you feel comfortable, but would not make another person feel comfortable. It wouldn't work to wear another person's shoes unless they have feet that are a similar shape.

There are several problems with this comparison, however. The first, of course, is that someone who would say something like that clearly believes that all controversial opinions are equal, and yet, is trying to assert his or her own opinion over me. That is to say, if you believe that all religions are equal and shouldn't be pushed on others, then feel free to accept your own advice, because my opinion, which you accept as being equally valid to yours, is that not all opinions are equal and that I should be free to share my opinion. (You can see more on this point in my video called Total Equality from a couple weeks ago.)

But additionally, this makes an error in assuming that politics and religion are personal things, as by their very nature, they are not. Political choices affect the entire country, and must be discussed. Religion affects not only the country, but the world. After all, if I'm right and the Bible is true, then that's something that should be widely spread. This isn't a belief that I hold for myself to make myself feel good, it's something that I believe is true for the entire world whether they like it or not. This is very different from a pair of shoes that conform themselves to me. Rather, I desire to be conformed to Christ and the Bible.

Simply because something is uncomfortable for somebody doesn't mean that it's meant only for somebody else. If someone were to spend their life slouching over, and then were to be put in a brace to keep them from doing so, surely this would be uncomfortable. But not because it's meant for somebody else- rather, because that person is the one bent out of shape. And unlike a pair of shoes, politics and religion, as well as any other controversial topic, must be discussed because it affects more than just one person. In fact, if something isn't controversial, you could argue that there is little point to discussing it at all. The quotation at the beginning compares religion to something personal that makes you feel comfortable. But this goes against the very nature of any philosophy that regards the way in which the world works, and thus, is a flawed comparison.
"I don't see how you can write anything of value if you don't offend someone."
-Marvin Harris

Little Things Matter

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."
-Leo Buscaglia
That quotation isn't entirely relevant to today's post. That's not to say that it isn't relevant at all, or I wouldn't have put it there. But this post isn't what that quotation may have led you to believe. It's easy to give a smile, or to show some simple act of caring, and yet, it's also important. But everybody knows that. It's the type of thing that people post on Facebook, or slap on a motivational picture. (Of course, whether people actually act on it or not is another question, but that's still not what today's post is about.) The reason I bring this up is because what I'm going to do in this post is expand on something that people already accept.

A smile can make a big difference. A little thing, but with a large effect. This is inspiring, so people accept it. It feels good, so people spread it. But what about can I vs. may I? ...That doesn't inspire any particular emotion at all. Let's try something else. Maybe a simple mathematical equation? 2+2*0=? What's the answer? I suspect that people would tend to give one of two answers. Some people would say the answer is 0, and other people would say the answer is 2. The latter would be correct. The reason for this is a little rule called the order of operations, which says that in any equation multiplication and division are performed before addition and subtraction, unless parentheses say otherwise.

Let's go back to can I vs. may I. In our house, it's rather common for my younger siblings to throw "may I" to the wind. "Can I" is used for everything. There's no real reason for that, as it's not any easier, but it still removes clarity. This can be applied to many things, but the reason I bring up this topic is because people will often throw these small ideas to the wind, claiming that it's a little thing, and therefore doesn't matter. "You know what I mean," they say. But I beg to differ. You know what you mean, but how am I supposed to know if you won't communicate clearly?

I once was in a conversation online where it took me about a half an hour to figure out what somebody was trying to tell me because they left out quotation marks around a particular phrase. Communicating clearly is the job of the person speaking. It's not right to expect somebody else to go through the work of deciphering your jumble of words. But this is another topic entirely, and isn't even why I brought up the topic.

The reason I brought this up is because of the political season. Chris Christie in particular was being rather infuriating in one of the debates from a while back when he was bashing on Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for talking about the goings on in the senate, saying that the American citizens don't care about that stuff. Sadly, he's correct. Many don't care, because they think that it doesn't affect them. They think that, for example, a single word doesn't make a difference. But what if the word changes the sentence, changing the paragraph, the section, the bill, the entire effect of the law? Far-fetched? A little, but not as much as you might think.

If people are paying such heavy attention to something that seems small, they must have a reason. Maybe that's just because they're being petty, but often, it's because it actually makes a difference. You may not understand it, but small things do make a difference. Being clear, closing loopholes, covering every angle, these things make a big difference, just like how one smile can turn a life around. Tugging the corners of your mouth up by about half an inch can change the course of an entire life? No, that's too small. The position of your face doesn't make a difference. ...Or does it?
 "You may think I’m small, but I have a universe inside my mind."
-Yoko Ono

Likable People

Sometimes, I can know that I won't get along with someone before I've even met them. Or should I say, I don't know that I won't get along with them, but based on my track record, I suspect it. I suspect it because I have heard many good things about whatever person it is. The person is fairly popular and well-liked. I have been informed that I should meet this person because they are very likable, and I will get along well with them. I really don't know where people get the idea that I'll get along with likable people. So today, I'll be talking about this type of person. I'll be explaining what I mean, and why I don't tend to get along with them. Part of it is my fault, and part of it isn't. I'll explain more on that later.

The first question to be asked is, what makes somebody likable? Obviously, different people have different personalities, and interact with others in different ways, and get along with different people. (Apparently, I can't get rid of that word, whether on my blog or on YouTube.) So a likable person would have a personality that connects well with a wide variety of other personalities. But a personality isn't all that a person has. There are also questions of politics, religion, and any number of other controversial issues. Of course, it's not a question of what you think about these things, but rather, how you think about them. How do you look at your own opinions? How do you look at the opinions of others? How much are you willing to compromise?

Because I believe that we have a sin nature, I have a rather low opinion of humanity in general. Our instincts are not to better ourselves, but rather, to justify ourselves. Of course, this doesn't mean that there are no people who learn when they need to learn. But people tend to like something if it doesn't particularly challenge them, or if it only challenges them in specific ways. And if someone, for example, gets up in your face and starts shouting at you, that person gets thrown out the window. (As it turns out, I have a friend who did once get up in my face, literally, and started shouting about my attitude towards my hat. But my attitude didn't affect him in any way. He was doing this for my benefit, to challenge me, because I was being stubborn and wouldn't listen any other way.)

This is part of why I have trouble getting along with people who are described as likable or popular. They tend to be, for lack of a better word, weak. They don't tend to challenge people, or ask the tough questions. They are very willing to adapt to what people want, and thus, are less likely to stand up for their controversial beliefs, whether because they back down, or because they just don't talk about them to begin with. Now, I'm not saying that people should be argumentative, but they should be willing to defend their viewpoints in a reasonable manner. Most people, of course, take a defense of an opposing opinion as being unreasonable, regardless of whether it is or not, and thus, would not be inclined to describe such a person as "likable."

Of course, not all "likable" people are like this. Obviously, I do like my friends, and some of them could even be described as popular, or, at the very least, extroverted. It isn't wrong for someone to have many friends, or to be an enjoyable person. But when somebody is described to me in that way, I find myself unable to get along with them. Not that I end up hating them, but that they end up rubbing me the wrong way. And I think that it's because being an enjoyable person isn't merely an attribute that they have, but rather, the attribute that is so overwhelming that that's how people would describe them to somebody else. Not as intelligent, caring, strong, introspective, considerate, or any number of other adjectives, but as having popularity as their primary trait.

But, I will admit, part of the reason that I don't get along with likable people is my own problem. To put it bluntly, I get jealous. People are social beings, and tend to desire affection in various forms. By attention, compliments, or whatever else. To hear somebody mention someone else in a positive light isn't a problem, but often when people talk about somebody likable, they're not just mentioning them. Often, they end up gushing a bit. Because I'm somebody who doesn't mind the spotlight, and even enjoys it, having the attention put on somebody else causes me to get a bit annoyed.

Jealousy of attention that others receive isn't a good thing, and it's something that I need to work on. But, at the same time, I do still believe that there's a problem when somebody's primary trait is their popularity. When the way that people describe someone is as "likable." After all, there are times that someone like this rubs me the wrong way before I've ever even heard them described. To get along well with many people is not a bad thing, but if it becomes the primary trait that people assign, it indicates, in my mind, that this popularity is coming at the expense of other things that are more important.
"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect)."
-Mark Twain