The Virtue of Foolishness
“Stupidity—The top of the list for Satanic Sins. The Cardinal Sin of Satanism. It’s too bad that stupidity isn’t painful. Ignorance is one thing, but our society thrives increasingly on stupidity. It depends on people going along with whatever they are told. The media promotes a cultivated stupidity as a posture that is not only acceptable but laudable. Satanists must learn to see through the tricks and cannot afford to be stupid.”
― Anton Szandor LaVey
“Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the 'transcendent' and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don't be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.”
― Christopher Hitchens
“For I did not speak on my own initiative.”
― Jesus of Nazareth
“Love is the foolishness of men, and the wisdom of God.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
When I was a teenager, I was sitting with a couple of friends. Well, one was my closest friend, and the other one was her "mentor". This mentor felt inspired to shift paradigms and break boxes because it feels good to light a match and walk away. I suppose she wanted the strange kind of affirmation grade-schoolers get when they knock the preschooler's blocks down. This mentor began challenging some of my friend's dearly-held beliefs with dry casual humour. She probably felt like a wise sage at the top of a mountain, calmly blowing our minds with her excessive wisdom.
I'll never forget this one thing she said to my friend, though:
"You just don't think for yourself. You just believe whatever your parents, whatever your teachers, whatever society tells you to think. You haven't really come up with your own conclusions."
It's a painful lesson but it's one I've heard wise sojourners quote often. "Come to your own conclusions." "Blaze your own trail." "Question everything." Recently I heard one christian leader encourage his followers to re-examine the basic tenets of their faith, to see what they really believed on the other side of their deepest skepticisms. Some leaders have developed quite a following from inviting doubt into your life as a tool for testing the structural integrity of your belief system.
I grew up around the same time the internet did–the modern incarnation of the worldwide web came into being around the same time I did. As we moved through the early days of dial-up and AOL/Netscape and emerged into the massive integrated time-sucking life platform we have now, I've observed something: we have an unquestioned value for ideological independence. We really like our right to think for ourselves.
I'm not a sociologist or a historian, so this gut feeling I have could be wrong. Perhaps thinking for yourself has always been a cool way of putting down ignorant people. Maybe Socrates was smoking a cigarette while leaning against a whitewashed marble column, and when the kid he was supposed to be mentoring came running up to him he muttered, "You know what your problem is, Plato? You just don't think for yourself."
I know the internet didn't inspire this kind of independence, but it has certainly empowered it. Now anybody with wifi can broadcast whatever they want without thinking about it. I'm aware there's a subtle irony about complaining about the internet on the internet, so let me just say I am thankful the internet has given everyone a voice. These series of tubes connecting our steams of consciousness together has come at a price, though. We now have ideological wars which seriously disrupt our ability to respond to current health crises. We have sexism and slander disguised as a journalistic revolution. We even have the ridiculously sublime controversies that cause you to shake your head and give up on the internet for the day. (Seriously, you should click on that last one. Apparently Stevie Wonder is only pretending to be blind...?)
Some would say this is a consequence of ignorance, not independence. Clearly these people just need to read better sources, right?
You are aware of how much content there is on the internet, right? Maybe we have a broken understanding of truth, and our perception of it. Maybe, in our rush to make up our own minds, we missed the fact that our minds were never made up by us in the first place.
Your deepest beliefs and perceptions aren't up to just you. Your thoughts are a garden other people are tending.
The idea you can discover the truth on your own, or really form your own independent opinion, is a fallacy. I promise you: no matter the conclusion you draw, someone else has gotten there first. And they didn't get there by themselves either.
Before we lived in a globalized age, where you could design and buy your shoes from China and have them by the end of the week, it was acceptable to identify with a group and accept a common set of beliefs and practices. Whether it was your town, your nation, or your religious affiliation, you belonged to a way of thinking because the town halls and cathedrals were bigger and louder than your own voice could ever be. We've left those days behind us, and I'm glad. We just can't be duped into thinking
We are now in a globalized age where we get to pick our own tribes. Once we pick our pack, we start believing we're the founding chiefs.
I've heard someone say, "if you just listen to your teacher or your pastor or your MP, they could be wrong!" Which is true. Affiliating with the beliefs and opinions of others is a risk.
But what if you really can think for yourself, and you're still wrong?
I believe Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, and I believe knowing Him leads to eternal life. I haven't read every single book on the topic, but I've concluded this matter in my mind and heart based on my own personal experience. There have been times where I've severely doubted and questioned my beliefs. There have been times where I've accepted this because I've went along with what I was told, too. I was the same person when I was accepting these beliefs as I was when I doubted them.
If truth is a place, you can't go there alone.
Our modern age limits our individuality to one of two options: ignorance or independence. You've either passed through the crucible of figuring out your own opinions, or you're stupid and ignorant and worthy of being ignored.
I'd suggest you reject both of these labels.
What if, instead of inflating our own perception and powers of rationale, we began to trust other people instead? What if we let our love for other people guide us into a truth without certainty?
Just because you have access to WebMD doesn't mean you should doubt the advice of your doctor. Just because you go through a freak snowstorm doesn't mean every climate scientist is out to deceive you.
It will seem foolish to trust people! In fact, it sometimes is foolish to trust people. Trust involves surrendering your control over the outcome over to someone else because you believe they deserve to have more input in your life than you do. One of my friends is a nutritionist, so I let him tell me what to eat. He doesn't want to control my diet, and if he said something crazy like "just live on Guinness for a year!" I'd probably Google it. But I'm predisposed to submit my view to his because I trust him. Even when I know he could be wrong.