“Why?” is a beautiful question, even though it terrifies most of us. A wise soul once said that the opposite of faith is not doubt but certitude. When we grow too attached to a belief and its perfect correctness, we disallow not only our own reexamination of that belief, which if it’s so perfectly correct should pose no threat to us and if it’s not, should allow us to become wiser and more faithful to our convictions; we also fail to show respect for the belief itself, if we are so fearful of its being exposed as wrong.

Standing fixed in a position of faith is only impressive if that belief can be defended in a calm, intelligent, reasonable conversation with someone who doesn’t yet share the same convictions. A shouting match or the refusal to discuss respectfully is as likely to convince and convert an unbeliever as punching someone in the nose is to prove that you’re smarter than she is if anyone’s questioned it. It’s more useful to ask, whenever any disagreement arises, whether one is genuinely defending one’s belief or just feels personally threatened. Egos so often get in the way of rational, logical conversation when we reflexively mistake the call for proof or persuasion of our beliefs for personal insults. It might be useful to remember that when someone asks for evidence of something we cherish as fact, we could give them the benefit of believing that they really want to know why we accept it as truth. A genuine discussion might actually lead to common ground.

It might also, if we let it, lead to greater insight on our own part. The dispassionate process of a logician is aimed not at debunking everything in sight but stripping away falsehoods and irrelevancies and fallacies to expose the facts in the matter. Truth can withstand all questioning. It trumps politics, rants, bullying, diversionary tactics, disinformation and pure human foolishness, if we dare to examine all of the input carefully and patiently and with respect for those who may have so far missed the mark. A reasoned and quietly stated truth will finally have more power than all of the smoke and mirrors that deniers propagate and cling to, or we will have to admit we’ve lost more than our own convictions.Digital illustration from photos + text: Zoanthrope

8 thoughts on “Fixity

  1. What an interesting commentary followed by an equally interesting, but also adorable poem! Although you make the point that truth trumps questioning, I think the truth is too often blurred to be deemed reliable – we can spend our whole lives waiting and never figure it out. But I agree that it is foolish to fixate upon a certain opinion without hearing the other side, we are most definitely too often blinded by ego. Thanks for sharing such a thought provoking post, Kathryn!

    • While I am no philosopher or sage myself, I do give myself credit for surrounding myself with people like you who manage to find crumbs of interest in my posts that lead to more interesting and intelligent conversation than I could generate through my own intellect, so I’m delighted you’ve found another bit of interest here. Thanks for that! 😀

  2. Somehow I accidentally posted my response to Fixity on your Zoanthrope page, but wanted to come back here to continue. Your Fixity post, above, really got my brain gears churning. Didn’t mean to be vague or cryptic in my other comment, so I’ll take another stab at it, although, honestly, I’m sort of rushed again today. My writing is going really well right now, and I swear every moment I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing! Doing my best to request that my brain behave for a few minutes, so I can expand on what I was referring to in my other comment.

    First off, my definition of Zoanthrope, and yours, are not in alignment. For me, Zoanthrope has always referred to a human form that can morph into a beast, or put more loosely, a person that can take on the sinister and other-wordly characteristics of evil, while disguised as a mere mortal.

    In your response to my other comment (on Zoanthrope), you wrote: “I obviously conceived of zoanthropy here, simply, as a good metaphor for any number of ways that we see ourselves differently than others see us, and that these differences in perception are bound in turn to affect, and be affected by, our beliefs—whether religious, political, scientific, social or any other sort.”

    So, when I said that each of us, in my belief, is capable of being a Zoanthrope, I was referring to the evil beast that resides within all humans that can be breathed into life, if given the opportunity. When I went on to say that “if that is true, (and I believe it to be so), then I don’t know how to reconcile that we are also eligible for the gift of believing”, what I was referring to was said in an obscure way, and was probably unintentionally vague, so let me try again.

    I’ve been a person who has stood firm in my belief in (whatever). God, a political, social, or scientific theory or premise. Insert any one of the above, as they are interchangeable. For the purposes of me making my point, I’ll use the example of God.

    I’ve been a person who has stood firm in my belief in God. So certain was I that God existed, that everything in my life revolved around that belief. Believing in God brought me much comfort, and provided a structure on which to build my life. I was so over-joyed with certainty about a loving God, that I was anxious to share this message with anyone that would listen. I could find a multitude of ways to work God into the conversation, because I just couldn’t contain my enthusiasm, and I wanted everyone to have the opportunity to know God in the same way. If God had been gold coins, I would have loved to have made everyone rich with His many blessings.

    So, in my comment, when I said “if that is true, (that we are all Zaonthropes, aka capable of becoming beastly evil incarnate contained within a human form), then I don’t know how to reconcile that we are also eligible for the gift of believing.” Put another way, I suppose what I was trying to say is that it is hard for me to grasp how it is that even people who are capable of causing great harm to others can have an equal opportunity to know God in a true and pure fashion. When I was entrenched in my belief in God, and bathed with the glory of His love, I truly believed that every human on the face of this earth was deserving of His love. In order to make that statement true, then that meant that even those that had done great harm were eligible for His love and protection. I firmly believed that, and one could not exist without the other.

    In other words, God (in my estimation) had to exist in equal proportion to those that were believers, and those that were not. His love is not exclusive to those who live in faith, but rather, based on my understanding of His love, he was available to every living soul, equally.

    I realize I’m making this entirely more complicated than your original intention, and that my definition of Zoanthrope does not align with yours. I believe your definition of Zoanthrope, (as seeing ourselves differently than others see us, as filtered through our own beliefs) is also completely accurate, but for the purposes of my gut reaction to your words, I was leaning in the direction of a Zoanthrope being a reference to an evil beast taking human form. Your juxtaposition of a Zoanthrope as Wilhelm, the playful and friendly giraffe, just added another layer of complexity and truth to the whole idea.

    It intrigued me to see Wilhelm, held against my idea of an evil beastly human, and how what we believe is always filtered through our own experiences and beliefs. How we can be absolutely certain we are right, even though we know it is just as right that the person standing next to us is also right, although they believe something entirely different. How we can become fixated on being right, rather than on listening to another point of view, and in doing so, we miss the opportunity to grow, or learn, or reshape our own beliefs.

    Sorry it took me this many words to explain it, but sometimes, especially for me, I can’t seem to find a succinct way to get my point across. The whole “knocking his head on a twelve foot ceiling” part of the equation was an entirely different train of thought, which I’ll save for another day. Let’s just say that your Fixity, when paired with Zoanthrope, was like a beautiful piece of art, which requires that it be tilted this way and that, so that the viewer has the opportunity to see various angles, each one offering up a different version of the truth. Quite an accomplishment, for one small post, yes?

    Again, sorry for the lengthy response, but you know me well enough by now to know that sometimes, even when I try, I can’t seem to help myself from peering a bit too closely. 🙂

    • I’m humbled by your generosity of response, especially knowing that you’re on a roll with your writing! Thank you.

      I think perhaps I would consider your definition of zoanthropy and mine simply different sides of a coin, or facets of the whole. What we believe ourselves to be and what others believe us to be might in some ways be quite complementary with what we or others are capable of *becoming*. Yes, I think we are capable as humans of being transformed or even usurped by otherness that can inhabit our forms, for good or ill.

      The simplest, most obvious way of it might be when someone undergoes a distinct personality change, whether through illness or accident or through life’s other effects on her; I would argue that there are subtler and less recognized or understood ways of dramatic transformation within the human shell, too. Religious people might call it ecstasy, possession, visions, or some such name, while others might name it differently, but whatever we call it, this too could be a strong cause for anyone to have a different self-view than others have of her.

      See? You’re just making my little brain go off in all sorts of interesting new directions, and I didn’t even see the fodder for something this intriguing in my post. Thanks, as always, for your insights!


      PS—don’t feel you have to drop everything and comment or respond here when you’re in the middle of great stuff elsewhere! I appreciate it immensely, but know too that when you’re doing wonderful writing, especially when it *summons* you so powerfully, that’s the place you want to be!! 😀

    • When I think I’m speaking the truth I almost always find people happy to argue its merits with me, but I’m always the more pleased to find like-minded friends like you who understand my language and share views with me. 🙂

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