I’m a man with strongly held beliefs that keep changing. I read and observe in some desperate Sisyphean attempt to bolster the dam of criticism looming high over my valley of idyllic homes. The homes are my pride and joy, borne of minutes and even hours of research but erected by in-the-flesh memories. I take care to keep the holistic view holistic while adding each soffet to the eaves, each shutter to the windows. But I can’t spend as much time on reinforcing the rafters or on touching up the fascia; no, I must instead buttress the walls of the dam, fixing any cracks or imperfections that could unleash hell upon my creations.
The Problem With Proof
Without beating a dead metaphor (and without exposing the fact that if I built submersible housing, I wouldn’t need a dam), I can’t be as true to my writing when I’m worried about the validity of my thoughts. In this way, academia has ruined me. Not only do I hate the word academia for sounding academic, but I hate it for imposing an off-white tower of oppression upon anyone who so much as coughs a thought.
Cite. Consult. Read. Research. Study. Your opinion means nothing without support.
All well-and-good. Can’t have the serfs debating the king, now can we? We have to keep the serfs ignorant! Come and see the violence inherent in the system:
- “That’s a bit reductive, isn’t it?”
- “Way to appropriate another culture to serve your purposes.”
- “Did you even look at what’s already been written on the subject?”
- “Yeah, well, Camus thinks it’s absurd to do anything at all because life is futile, so nothing you’ve said actually matters.”
- “What does science have to say about the subject?”
We get it. You’ve read the oeuvre of oeuvres. You know what God tattooed on his taint that drunken night in Aruba and you won’t hesitate to bust it out to the uninitiated.
You’re Wrong And Here’s Why
The omission of the language of a discipline or the scholars of said discipline should not reduce an opinion to moot. Here’s where, if I gave a turtle’s balls (speaking of which, where exactly are a turtle’s external reproductive parts? Bet you’ve never thought about that, Mr. Scientist!), I’d talk about the philosophy of perception. But you know what? I’m not going to.
Instead, I’m going to make an impassioned and purely uninformed plea to all the unemployed PhDs who spend their bleak, barely existential lives posting upturned-nose responses to articles on blogs and forums: go outside for 10 minutes. Just 10. Learn from something that isn’t what someone else said. The well-beaten student in me screams when I think things like, “Huh, the only people who go down the ethnic foods aisle are white people,” whereas the corn-fed American in me thinks, “That’s probably because all of the shit down that aisle is overpriced.”
A well-researched opinion on the matter would demand population demographics, average household income by race (how very Hitler of us to keep such statistics), and perhaps a surreptitiously disguised observational study that definitely doesn’t single out anyone with dark skin. When in reality, all it takes is 10 minutes staring down the ethnic foods aisle watching all the Yoga-pants’d-middle-aged-white-women-clinging-on-to-youth fighting over the mi krop.
And here’s where someone would step in to address the xenophobia, nationalism, ethnocentrism, and everything-else-ism in my statements, while at the same time attempting to get me to read the IEP article on epistemology. Desperately, desperately trying to make me see the light and to convert to the church of proof.
And Now I Bury My Head In The Sand
And yet these observations are mine. I’ve seen the people in the ethnic foods aisle.
How did I come to this belief? Is it true? Is it valid? Is it knowledge?
Shit if I know. I, like 99% of the world, am not an expert, am not an academic, and am not interested in burying myself in heaps of contradictory canon texts that ultimately lead me to the same conclusion:
We’re all going to die and death doesn’t give two turtle’s balls slowly penduluming against one another whether or not we reach death in an enlightened state, that everything we ever produced was the fruit of a bountiful backlog of research that accounts for every nuance and eventuality.
As Adichie states in “Americanah,” “I don’t want to explain, I want to observe.”
If anything, the deepest thinkers fail to communicate with the general public because they’re so far in their own heads as to be divorced from any practical human interaction. Should furthering the academic knowledge and education of the few be weighed as more important than reaching the largest number of people?
But What Can I Do Now When You’ve Shattered My Worldview?
My goal for my writing is to observe and to convey as accurately as possible how I view the world. Whether or not that perception is wholly ignorant of what someone else has already said is irrelevant. Could that other opinion change mine? Of course. But at the time of writing, I truly believed in a Jim Jones way what I was writing.
Interact with writing how you will, but approach each piece not as a critic, but as witness to the inner workings of a fellow earthling.