Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Just the Facts, Ma'am
I love knowledge. I love learning new things. Gaining understanding of concepts and disciplines that are utterly foreign to me. I find it very enjoyable to participate in or eavesdrop on conversations with people who have polar opposite views from me. It's the best way to grasp an idea that you hadn't considered before. I may not be won over but I sometimes gain a newfound respect for another person. Or maybe become convinced that he is, indeed, an idiot. Either way I'm entertained as well as enlightened. Sometimes we wander into an area where fact ends and the universe of pondering the imponderables begins. Philosophy, politics, religion, music, theater, numbers of faeries dancing on the head of a pin. There is wiggle room for discussion and preference and critique under all of these headings. It can be lively. I hope it remains civil and no one storms out in a fit of self-righteous indignation. But that happens, too, sometimes. Either because an individual holds such passion and fervor for the subject at hand. Or because they have made an error in judgement. Gasp. They have confused their opinion for a fact. Facts are easy. Jimmy Carter was president of the United States in 1977. The Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992. The square root of 16 is 4. The 2002 Fox television series Firefly has fourteen episodes, eleven of which had been broadcast at the time it was cancelled. Facts are facts. No wiggle room. Everything else is opinion or theory or conjecture or under construction. It's open for discussion. We can agree to disagree on any and all of those. A couple of years ago, after being introduced to my friend Colleen, a man who shall remain nameless asked of her if I always had to be right. Colleen replied something like, well, that was just how I am. Obviously I'm paraphrasing, I was out of earshot at the time. The thing is, I don't have to be right. I just expect people to have their facts straight. By the same token, I expect to be gently corrected if I'm wrong. We'll get along fine as long as you agree the number of faeries dancing on the head of a pin totally depends on whether they're doing the foxtrot or the tango. And I'm certain the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow, African or European, is distinctly faster than that of a laden one.