Thursday, November 6, 2014

In praise of losing

Charles Bowen ("D") may be the smartest person I know, and he is undoubtedly the most hard-headed.

This combination, I like to think, is what draws us together.

It ensures conversations will be witty and spirited, and that silences will be telling.

But, every so often, it also makes for a Clash of the Titans-epic row.

I count one such argument - specifically, its aftermath - as one of the proudest moments of my life.

Because I lost.


On the way to or from somewhere or other, D and I got into a conversation about the death penalty. And, as such "conversations" often do, it lead to a knock-down, drag-out argument.

Now anyone who's ever argued with me knows two things:

1. I do not come to my decisions lightly. Much thought is involved. So, if you're gonna counter me, you better have your facts in order. Or I will destroy you.

2. Charles Bowen may be hard-headed, but, were there a contest, I'm certain I'd take the crown for it. On my best days, it means I stick to my guns and principles. On my worst, I'm just an intolerable human being.

Knowing these things, D debated me anyway.

He countered facts for facts.

He met me head on for headstrong.

And, with a very pointed question, he changed my mind.


Perhaps, as my freshman lit teacher advised, I should repeat that last sentence for emphasis. But instead, I'd like to rephrase.

The reason it's a moment I herald as one of the finest in my life is because I changed my mind.

Me, with my stubborn nature and my litany of facts, listened to an opposing argument and allowed myself to be open to its truths.

I changed my mind.


In a nation so completely divided among political and ideological lines, more often than not the majority of what we see and hear (and spout) is that the other side is comprised of a bunch of morons. As such, we dismiss the others - often statistically about half the population - and deny them the respect that should be accorded to every human being (even the stupid ones who disagree with me.)


I changed my mind.


And friends, I can tell you, the benefits of that action are a gift that keeps on giving.

Accepting, even for a moment, that I might have been wrong. That there might have been more forest hidden amongst those trees - was humbling and embarrassing for a moment. But it's been liberating ever since. Because there's no room for growth in "being right," and endless room for growth in learning you might be wrong.

And maybe there are more options than right and wrong...when's the last time you actively considered the implications of that?

The moment you agree to consider - to listen - to really, really think about what you believe, you may be surprised at what you find.

For some, they will find themselves where they started, and more secure than ever before in that place. For others, a new path will be found, one that offers the opportunity to explore a new headspace. Which often leads to meeting new people and continuing to learn new things.

I've seen a lot of line-in-the-sand lately. A lot of dismissive rhetoric with very little statistical or ideological merit. And I've seen the damage it can do.

It remains my hope that others will come around to the process of openmindedly examining another point of view. Of reserving judgement. Of seeing an opponent as an opportunity, rather than a threat to be eliminated.

I believe we can do it.

And, at least in this instance, I don't think it'd be a point of pride to be proven wrong.

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