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The Value of Ideas and the Willingness to Let go of Certainty

July 21, 2010

I’ve been thinking about the value of ideas today. I’ve been thinking about how we parse language, how we see the world in ways that confirm our belief systems.

We look for connections, for explanations, for why. We really don’t like not having the why of things. Without the why, we lose our illusion of control, our belief that if we just know the cause, we can keep it from happening to us.

We’ll take fake causes because they act as balms. They soothe us, allow us to relax, believe the myth that everything is under control.

It’s had me thinking, as I’ve read the comments over at AoA’s credibility post, as the day’s progressed, wondering if one of the key differences in some parents is that whole control issue. Maybe some of us are okay with not knowing all the whys. Maybe some of us get that there aren’t finite, neat answers for everything, and that most folks do the best they can. Maybe some of us get that doctors aren’t infallible and don’t have quick fixes for all of the mysteries and messes of life.

Is that part of it? Would the die-hard AoAers, those who leapfrog from why to why, from vaccines to monkey viruses to lyme disease to retroviruses to mito damage to all of them in some weird-ass combination, have still been like this if their child(ren) hadn’t been diagnosed with autism? Are they wired to see conspiracies everywhere or does that add an element of drama and flare that they just have to have?

We root for the underdogs, you know? We like David and we want him to defeat Goliath. We cast ourselves as the heroes in our own great adventures, and we need bad guys, right? It provides a narrative, a structure, a meaning to our lives. It gives us our why.

I think that stepping away from that need to cast ourselves as David, I think that accepting a nebulousness about reality in that we acknowledge our lack of control is really, really hard to do. No solid ground, right? No rock. No ready answers.

I’m willing to balance, hopefully with some level of grace, but admitting freely more often than not with a great deal of bumbling, like Nataraja, Lord of the Dance, and hope that I can keep all my balls in the air with a little bit of help from my friends and family. And a lot of reliance on the scientific method.

I don’t know all the answers, and I love the mystery that’s inherent in admitting there’s so very much to be learned. I hold my beliefs loosely, like balls being juggled in the air. I hope to find balance. I hope to maintain a humility in the realization that there are more non-answers than answers and that sometimes I’ll drop a ball or two, or see a ball transform.

It’s okay not to know all the answers, to not have all the whys.
It doesn’t mean I can’t build a good life for my children, my husband, and myself.
It doesn’t mean I can’t work to make the world a better place.
It doesn’t mean I can’t find reasons to laugh, to delight in the world.
It just means I have to let go of illusions, of certainty.
I have to be willing to dance, even if it means I sometimes stumble.

I choose this path. I choose it with intention.
Do they? Do they choose their paths with an openness of mind, with a willingness to be proven wrong?
Do they? Do they work to make the world a better place? Or do they work to foment drama?

Ideas matter. Indeed, credibility does as well. How do they spend their credibility?

Anne Dachel may think this is a battle, a war, to be won: “It’s going to be a fight till the end—but we will win.”  And she keeps it cast as a battle concerning vaccines and pharma and government as the enemies, with vaccines as the weapon.

Does that even make sense to anyone? Can rational people read AoA and not see the illogic? It isn’t, as Dachel and others there would have people believe, a battle about vaccines and a vast conspiracy. It’s about ideas. About certainty. And the illusion of control.

Perhaps people nod and offer them no argument for reasons other than credibility? After all, when your work online is to attack and attempt to destroy the career of any government official or medical expert who takes you on, perhaps it’s more about going along with the bully in order to avoid being a target.

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