Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"An Unstartling Epiphany"

Though, to me, it was astonishing.  I actually went, “Oh, my God!”  You too may go, “Oh, my God!”  Not at the epiphany.  But that I found it astonishing.

Okay, so I was at this party I mentioned yesterday, where I got gunned down by a young comedy writer which made me wonder, as surviving gunfighters eventually must, if it was maybe time for me to…

Wait.  Let me tell you the epiphany first before I run on forever and wind up having to save it till tomorrow, which is good for nobody but me because I would then have one less post idea to come up with although everyone knows this exercise is hardly for me. 

(I just coughed in a self-revelatory manner.  Two quick “Oh, sure’s.”  And now, we move on.)

The epiphany I just realized – you can insert the word “belatedly” if you adjudge me an illuminational “late bloomer” – is this:

Allowing for inevitable although scattered exceptions,

“Nobody changes their mind about anything.”

I now leave room for the appropriate reaction.  “Speechless amazement” comes to mind, but only as a compliment, not of the head-shaking variety. 

All right.  Ready?  React!


Okay, that’s enough.  Now…

How did this speechlessly amazing epiphany come to me?

As I said, I was at this party, where I encounter a writer who knew me, explaining to his accompanying wife that I was one of the best comedy writers of my era.  Never an unwelcome conversation-starter.

I knew this writer primarily as a friend of a friend, the headline about his personal biography – which he injected shortly into the conversation – being that he had lived for an extended period in Israel and had participated in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  Previous conversations about him with my friend suggested treading softly around that area of inquiry.

I once read somewhere that when you hear a sentence beginning with “Don’t”, as in “Don’t talk about Israel with this gentleman”, all you remember is “Talk about Israel with that gentleman”, and then you do.

But then it hit me, like a ton of shimmering “Ooh-ah Chorus”-revelational bricks.

“Nobody changes their mind about anything.”

Although in other arenas, admittedly not, I do, however, find myself to be audacious – bordering on foolhardy – in casual conversation.  Maybe I just like to keep things lively, and the best way to do that is to get my co-conversationalist first, engaged and then, angry, a variation, perhaps, on Descartes:  “I antagonize; therefore I am.”

Putting a more positive spin on the matter, I apparently at some point came to believe that, with carefully assembled facts and water-tight logical reasoning, I can actually alter people’s opinions by, ever the “middle-of-the-roader”, presenting them with the alternative position, with the goal of redeeming them from their intractable one-sidedness.

I actually believe that.  I am not making this up.

Discussions on this matter inevitably come down to the contentious “dividing line” of whether or not you are “A friend of Israel.”  Which is a serious consideration. 

As committed “single issueists”, a substantial number of Jewish voters have switched their party allegiances from Democratic to Republican, believing that the Republican Party is “A friend of Israel” and the Democratic party is not.

To which my analogizing rejoinder is invariably,

“If a person is six-foot-five and another person is six-foot-four, does that make the six-foot-four person ‘short’?”

That, to me, is the gradational differentiation between the two parties support of the beleaguered State of Israel.

I would then go on to remind the unwavering “Friend of Israel” that the definition of what exactly it means to be “A friend of Israel” is qualitatively elusive, and that if I, for example, were declared because of my views, to be not “A friend of Israel”, then a lot of Israeli citizens – approximately half of them – would, due to their matching beliefs, reside a similar ideological watercraft themselves.

I leave you to decide what to think about that.  For me, it is a defusing “starting place.”

Because of my recent epiphany, however, you know what I said to this man whose hardline position on Israel is emotionally galvanizing?

I said nothing.

And felt sensationally good about it.

Realizing that there was no way I could budge this man’s opinion on this matter a single centimeter, I suddenly felt free to allow him his position, experiencing the glorious relief of being liberated from the self-imposed task of trying to change it.

Besides who wants to provoke a person who tells people you was one of the best comedy writers of your era?

I confess that, because a leopard may be able to change his spots but never all of them at one time, I did feel the need to mention a controversial book on the subject of Israel entitled My Promised Land, which I mistakenly called My Beloved Country, which morphed immediately into Cry, The Beloved Country, which is about South Africa, allowing me merciful rescue from my misguided misstep.

But Oh, the Freedom!  Oh, the Exultation!  I am now and forever released from wrangling others’ longstanding beliefs because I now happily realize that…

“Nobody changes their mind about anything.” 

In fact, I actually read somewhere that, very often, if you confront people’s longstanding beliefs with validating facts and figures and impeccable logical argument they end up holding those longstanding beliefs even more intensely than before.

So forget about it.  (He proclaimed, throwing his now shredded “argument confetti” into the air.)  My well-intentioned assignment, proven demonstrably impossible, is over.  I can express my views, or not, and if do I choose to express them, I can now do so without the accompanying vein-popping frustration of, “Why can’t you see that I’m right!”

The words “You silly person” understood, though reflected in the lightning bolts of incredulity flying angrily from my eyes.

A well spent few minutes then, wouldn’t you say?  Learning nobody changes their mind about anything? 

Of course, it you believe otherwise, I am now sure that I haven’t convinced you.

And I am perfectly fine about that.



Fred from Scarborough said...

The backfire effect.

Fred from Scarborough said...