“Your Uncle Walter’s going on and on, Bout everything he’s seen and done
The voice of 50 years experience, Drunk, watching the television
You know he’s been around the world, Last night he flew to Baghdad
In his magical armchair, Cigarettes and a six pack, he just got back
Now the spit’s flying everywhere”- Ben Folds “Uncle Walter”
Human nature dictates that we have an opinion. It is simply how we are wired. But like Ben Folds “Uncle Walter” I have learned over the course of my life that there are a special few (arrogant assholes maybe?) that have an opinion about everything. These are the people who have never uttered the words “I don’t know”.
I have a neighbor that I avoid like the plague now. We used to be friends, pretty good friends at that, when our kids were younger. But as I have gotten older my views and opinions have softened while his, in my opinion, have gotten harder and more extreme. We have always been on opposite ends of the political spectrum it was just easier to overlook or accept when you are dragging kids through Disneyland together with a beer in your hand.
My impression is that he has gotten smaller as the world around him has gotten bigger. His views have narrowed into a neat little package that he can keep in his pocket or wear on his sleeve and argue and defend to the death. After a beer or twelve he isn’t much fun for me to be around.
As I told my wife one day, I don’t know whether he is right or wrong I just came to the point that I didn’t care anymore. He reminds me of those Southerners that continue to honor and fight the civil war. A war that ended, in defeat I might add, 151 years ago. As a Southern man myself who had many an ancestor lose their life in this battle I say let it go, take the flag down, and move on. But still, some fight.
A business associate of mine has what he thinks is a cute mantra. He says “I have an open mind it’s just that the opening is real narrow”. Sadly, I can speak from first hand experience that his “opening” is in fact closed and has been closed for several years. The universe has expanded but his thoughts have not. It saddens me that his happiness is based on a world that has long since passed him by.
Yes, opinions are like (fill in the blank), everybody has one and each one smells a little different. The trick is finding the balance between what you believe in, what views are non negotiable and why they are really non negotiable. It is a slippery slope that too many chose not to navigate because it requires work, thought and maybe, everyone once in a while saying three simple words “I don’t know”.
“Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds. I have always kept an open mind, a flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of the intelligent search for truth.”- Malcolm X