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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

5 "Truths" You Learned That Are Actually BS

1. "There's someone out there for everyone" 

No, there's not! Statistics alone should give us a wake-up call. I don't believe in a soul mate and luckily that trend is growing. In fact, I read a great blog post just this morning by someone brave enough to say, "my husband is not my soul mate." We put marriage on a pedestal and think not only will it be perfect and fulfilling but that it's the pinnacle of human achievement. (I blame Disney.) But I seem to recall a 1st century Nazarene who did just fine without it.

Thinking there is someone out there for everyone doesn't factor in the experience of millennia of religious orders, priests, saints like Paul or Francis, and countless other normal, celibate and single people who have walked the earth during every age. Marriage is a vocation and it's not for everyone, even today. You may, in fact, be called to live a single life, which is no less fulfilling or meaningful than finding your "someone out there." If we stopped literally romanticizing marriage and the desire for intimacy, we might not have so many failed marriages in the first place. And we'd certainly have fewer people who feel inadequate being single.

2. "Those who would sacrifice security for liberty deserve neither"

This one is Benjamin Franklin's fault. It's a great sentiment, and it certainly gets my patriotic blood a'boilin' over into a volcano of resentment against British imperial tyranny! But a simple application of logic shows that this statement simply isn't true. Political Philosophy 101 is that any form of government necessarily takes away certain freedoms in order to grant security. 

For example, we give up our freedom to shoot in the face whomever we please as we could in an anarchy in order that we can have the security of collective laws and a police force who can do the shooting for us. Voila! More security and less freedom. I agree that there is a balance to be reached between complete freedom (anarchy) on one end and complete security (dictatorship) on the other. But our American ideal that liberty is everything is a crock. But no American wants to hear a figure like Patrick Henry shout, "Give me mostly-reasonable-property-and-expression-rights-with-marginal-concessions-to-security... Or Give Me DEATH!" But nuance has never been popular in American thought.

3. "If you work hard enough, you can be anything you want."

I feel bad knocking this idol down because it's such a nice mentality. But it's also an illusion. Socio-economics alone explain that this isn't true. Simple logic is also helpful. But human experience is perhaps the best teacher.

When I was little there was a time when I straight-up believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would one day be President. Of the United States. Now, being a male WASP, my chances were actually pretty good. But then I became Catholic and undid one of the greatest things going for me.

In reality, we all have different gifts, talents, and cognitive limitations. The Strengthsfinder books are great for pointing this out. Like Rudy at Notre Dame, you can get pretty far with a lot of hard work but you still have limitations (the poor guy only ever made one tackle). Maybe Rudy's efforts would have been better spent training for something he excelled at already. For example, I have great gifts in empathy, in having a safe presence for people to open up to. But that's not the determining factor for who becomes President. Eventually you have to accept reality and realize that reality can make you happier than your dreams can. Work hard in the areas where you shine and don't kill yourself trying to achieve something you were never meant to.

4. "You have the right to marry whomever you please" / "Love knows no bounds"

The first problem is that in English we only have one word for "love." Love of neighbor indeed knows no bounds. But romantic love is entirely bounded.

 Now, hear me out: this isn't directed at gay marriage. I cannot emphasize that strongly enough. Here, I'm not arguing against gay marriage, I'm arguing against bad arguments. Marriage actually has all sorts of limitations and always has, though it's also had limits that have more or less changed. But most of those limitations are so natural yet assumed that we don't even think about them, and they are so myriad that the scope for marriage is incredibly small.

The definition of whom you can marry has always been fairly narrow. That is changing nowadays with regard to marrying a specific gender but even with that change, it's an extremely small window. The truth is, you can't romantically love let alone marry whomever you please. You can't marry a close family relation, for example. You can't marry someone who's already married. You can't marry a child, you can't marry an adult if you are a child, you can't marry someone cognitively impaired (in certain states), someone against their will, an animal, etc. Eventually you'll realize that while there may be many people out there to theoretically love or want to marry, the people you can actually go the whole nine yards with fit a very narrow scope of criteria. This whole notion of "love doesn't recognize societal norms" simply isn't true. We have areas where we're willing to give as a society, like gay marriage, and other areas where we simply can't stomach a change, like despising pedophilia.

5. "S/he means well"

Half the time this is probably true. But half the time the person is probably just being a huge a-hole. Hey, we've all been there but let's not pretend acting out of childishness, racism (see any number of comments following Zimmerman's trial), etc. aren't all ego-trips. We need to stop making excuses for people who persist on operating at such an immature level.

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