13 Mar The Finality of All Things
I wanted to be many things, like most children, I had endless dreams. I saw a race car and I wanted to move as swiftly, I glimpsed at a tall building and I wanted to scale it. I gazed at something complete and wanted to deconstruct it to see what it was made of. I admired my father and mother, even though the 5-year-old me did not understand which professions they belonged. Whenever we accompanied my parents to the airport, I got excited. As we drove into the gates, my eyes beamed at the sight of an aeroplane. I wondered how it felt to control an aeroplane as it glided through nothingness in the blue distant sky, up above? I marveled at how this big piece of aluminum floated with ease, went forward imperiously and showed no fear in the face of nothing. I collected thoughts about the person that stood behind all of that. Did he feel the same? I thought about how accomplished, pilots must have felt as they lifted off into the clouds.
Today, when I consider the incalculable risks one faces as a passenger in an aeroplane, the likelihood that the pilot’s navigation may be inconsequential to a fatal crash, I am forced to reexamine my childhood aspirations (and admirations). More so, now in the advent of Corona- virus, I have had to post pone some travel plans. What has changed? Have I grown? Or, have I become fearful, as a result of the Boeing 737 MAX crashes? Has the knowledge of the high fatality rate of aeroplane accidents pricked my fairytale bubble? Whatever it may be, change is recognized as an eternal part of life. As human beings, our preferences may change. We leave places like the floating hyacinth, we let go of people, and our views evolve. We delight in the company of friends, spouses and loved ones, but sometimes, and sadly, this may be only for a while. Our loved ones pass away, as my father did when I was 10. Sometimes those we have opened up to about the most intimate parts of ourselves, betray and consequently hurt us, so, we inevitably have to let them go. This can be painful. How does this leave us? Why can’t things remain the same? I often ask myself? I hope this blog can provide some answers, or at the very least help us understand this.
Trish Hall writes that people tend to cling, to their ideas and beliefs – they often resist other perspectives because there are fundamental psychological reasons for protecting our positions. She argues that generally, we pay more attention to evidence that supports our beliefs, and we ignore evidence that goes against them – what is termed as a confirmation bias. Ultimately, this is used to explain why people enjoy keeping around those that share similar opinions. People are hostile to change. The tutorials presented a different experience and in so doing helped us develop new ideas. During the tutorial one was required to defend their ideas in the essay and critique other students’ essays. It provided a good opportunity for one to reflect on what they had written, and also gave one the opportunity to get feedback on what one had written. Perhaps it was meant to guide us to a more informed truth and often that meant changing one’s view. Reminding us that even in an academically rigorous setting nothing was ever absolute and we had to be open enough to engage with different views.
On my graduation, our Vice Chancellor mentioned to us, that the degrees we were awarded, reflected Oxford’s intention to promote certain qualities of mind such as intellectual self-reliance and honesty. She emphasized, “The crucial and most difficult qualities are understanding and the ability to distinguish the truth from the seemingly true.” The rigor of discourse which we were subjected to in the tutorials was meant to guide us to separate the truth from what was seemingly true. (what Yanis Varoufakis sometimes calls “motivated error”). Moreover, we learnt that what was true could always change (theory of relativism), depending on one’s interests, but ultimately one had to examine all claims. It is crucial for one to always be open to changing one’s views. Change is inevitable and recognizing so, may make one more adaptable.