KNOW WHEN TO HOLD ‘EM, KNOW WHEN TO FOLD ‘EM, KNOW WHEN TO JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP SERIOUSLY DUDE
Like all languages English is riddled with lacunas. Also called a lexical gap, a lacuna is a common concept that we don’t have a word for. The most commonly cited example is that we have a name for a child with dead parents— that being ‘orphan’—but we don’t have a word to describe the parents of a dead child. While that gap is odd and probably should be filled, I think there is a more pressing one. There is no word for the period of zealous, almost religious mania that newly minted atheists go through.
You know the people, you may have even been one of them, these insufferable moral highgrounders who manage to make almost every conversation pointless by twisting it around to how religion poisons everything. They hector everyone they meet who dares question them or not take them seriously or, flying spagetti monster forbid, holds a different belief to them. They reject the complexity of reality and how we perceive it, and try to enforce certainties on an inherently uncertain field of discussion. I, for what it’s worth, think I stand with bespectacled internet Harry Potter folk singer and pop science bite-sizer Hank Green when he says that he feels uncomfortable answering the question ‘Do you believe in God?’ Because there are more words in it that he has trouble defining than words he’s sure about.
This early adopter over-expressiveness is not restricted to whether or how many people live on the clouds above us. It is equally present in areas as banal as what internet browser you use or what logo is on the back of your computer or who publishes the comics you read or Pepsi vs Coke or Omar vs Bubbles. We like feeling right, we treasure certainty, and when we hit on something with real surety we cling to it. And that can be totally intolerable for anyone around us. So, maybe, sometimes, y’know, when you’re really into something, something you’ve discovered for the first time, something you just know you are 100 per cent right about just take a little time to internally treasure your correctness.
We’ve already established that your opinions are key parts of you. They are as sacred to you as your biology and brain sparks. So, of course, you want to share them. Of course you want to express yourself. We all want immortality and we all realise that in the face of the overwhelming certainty of death that our only real chance for that is through our ideas. We don’t want to change the world. Not that much. We just want to leave an impression on it. The easiest way to do that is to spread the ideas in your head, right? That’s why you push your new beliefs so hard on others. If someone could just listen to you on this one thing then maybe they will carry it on and spread it. That’s all well and good, and more power to you but you still need to learn to pick your battles.
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You know that no one likes to hectored with other people’s ideas, you just sometimes need to be told when that hectoring person is you. By no means am I trying to tell you to keep totally schtum about all your thought-babies, I’m just asking you to always judge your audience. You want to be listened to, so talk to the people who will listen, and talk reasonably. Remember that you want to share your ideas not drill them into people. Attempting to convert people never works, trying to persuade people does.