Happy 4th of July… late… I actually wrote this on the 4th. May the Lavicius, monkey god of wealth and avarice, bless you!… … Yeah, I’m not really big on holidays, and I can’t say that I’m extremely patriotic either. This country has a ton of problems that we don’t want or just can’t address, and the thing is, I completely understand why, and why there isn’t much that I can do about it. John the Baptist was referred to as a ‘voice crying out in the wilderness’ and sometimes I have to admit that I feel the same way… not that I compare to John the Baptist, but this feeling I understand. I see the problems, and I see ways that we could fix them, or at least steps towards fixing them, but no one listens to me.
Today, I was having a conversation with one of my students concerning matters of justice and how the justice system should work. Honestly, I generally agree with the position my student was taking. However, she wasn’t really thinking through her position. She couldn’t provide solid arguments to support her positions, and she had nothing in the way of evidence. So I took the other side of the issue. My student made the comment that she felt like she was in a debate, and I pointed out that she was.
Talking over opinions is all well and good, but if we can’t support those opinions with well-reasoned arguments and provide at least some sources to back up our claims, then all we’re really doing is talking over our beliefs without actually showing any ability to defend those beliefs. All too often reasoned argument is limited to academic forums, and it shouldn’t be. We need to be able to make and support strong arguments in our daily lives.
If we can’t do this with basic things, then can we really be surprised that the public forum is filled with random, uninformed, undefended opinions, or that we seem to be utterly insecure as a nation? This is the question I keep coming back to. We do so much to build up confidence and self-esteem without actually driving people to do anything to earn these things. Confidence is important, sure. But if a person is confident in something that they have no actual ability to achieve, then is their confidence actually worth anything?
To give an extreme example, how many people have jumped off of buildings high on something and absolutely confident that they could fly? Confidence that is achieved through action is worth something. Confidence that is achieved through overcoming difficulties, through hard work, through invested time, all worthwhile. However, confidence that is illusory is just damaging. I have so many students who can’t write well, but are completely confident in their own excellence. This is one of the most difficult things that I have to deal with. Now, I’m no slouch at writing, and I’m fairly confident in my abilities, but I’m also no Stephen King or Alvin Plantinga.
If we were a little less confident, and a little more willing to pursue things that are difficult, then maybe we’d have a stronger confidence in who and what we are.