I'm at a place where I feel like I don't understand anything that's going on. Looking back, I see there was a time when I believed I had some understanding, but that has gone away. What I think happened is I never had understanding and am coming to realize it. Relativity of perception undermines all the understanding I ever believed I had. I can remember in the beginnings of college, it was very important to have opinions, self-identification by opinions. I remember wondering why. It seemed to me an opinion wasn't anything. It might be connected to something in a very remote way. Because I understood it the thing to do, evidence of higher education, a sign of intelligence, what's expected, I set to having opinions about politics, about rock stars, about what other people should be doing, especially in the realm of government where I really knew nothing at all. I didn't even know what was, let alone what ought to be. But I think we should (fill in the blank). That's right, I agree.
I have a friend who holds opinions up so high they're like truth. Sometimes his opinions make me shift my gaze to outside the window like there's something suddenly interesting I see out there. I've never heard of an opinion even approaching truth. Opinions kind of pretend they're looking in that direction, but they're not. It's not about truth. It's about only slightly informed individual perception, often allied with what one is expected to think to circulate in a certain crowd. "I'm definitely against the war." "I am too." I found I clung to my opinions like they were important. Somebody disagree and I'd get my back up and question whether I really liked that person. I found that opinions often ran along class lines. Working class men have very different opinions from middle class men, who also have very different opinions from ruling class men.
Gradually, having opinions became a way of thinking. I also think it has something to do with being male. It is very important that a man knows about things, knows what he's talking about, has answers to difficult questions. These are things I grew up believing about becoming a man, until I got there and found men don't necessarily know what they're talking about. And answers to difficult questions? I'm not so sure about that either. I've seen men get all blustery blabbing about some nonsense that makes me politely go on listening, but wishing I was somewhere else. A man is required to have a tone of voice that says I know what I'm talking about, by God. This necessity for a man to have opinions is absolute.
In my early years in the mountain, I knew elder Millard Pruitt about 14 years until he died. I found him a brilliant man and one so locked down in opinions, he was stuck in place. He was born a Regular Baptist and a Republican, and he died a Regular Baptist and a Republican. That was his evidence he did not change. Not changing was very important to him. It was being Godlike, as God doesn't change. Often in our conversations he would get me all wound up with his right wing political opinions. One night after knowing him several years, I was driving home from visiting with him one evening. I sat in the truck furious because he had such block-headed opinions that were different from mine, so different there was no reconciliation. I started the car, fumed a few minutes and drove on out of the driveway wondering about letting Millard go as somebody I used to know, because we didn't agree on practically everything, except what was real.
I drove most of the way home with steam spewing out my ears thinking about Millard's support of fascists, Ku Klux Klan, and so on. I can recall the exact spot I was on the road, driving up Brown Road just after I left the pavement heading up the mountain. About 2/3 of the way around the first big curve in the gravel road it came to me. Opinions are nothing. They're not even air I can breathe. They're nothing whatsoever, based in nothing and about nothing. It's nothing more than the workings of the subjective mind attempting to identify with collective mind with opinions. When that came to me, my brood lifted, I lightened up to something like helium inside when my former belief about opinions fell away and I saw there was nothing to it. After that, I could listen to Millard go on about Reagan like he was the greatest there ever was next to the One there's no greater than. After the realization, and I do think of it as a realization, I could listen to every kind of opinion there is. It got tested the few times I was exposed to Rush Limbaugh, aware of his destructive force. Whenever 2 or 3 men say the same thing to me about Obama in the same words, I know where it came from, don't even have to ask. RNC propaganda.
I have to confess that I continue to carry opinions. It seems like a natural part of adult life. Everyone around me talks their opinions on matters and I talk mine. The difference between now and before is that I don't take them seriously. I talk them freely, like above, RNC propaganda. Of course, I think it's an objective accusation, when in fact, it's subjective. It may be right. It may be wrong. I honestly don't know which, but I think I do. Somebody who pays no more attention to the news than I do, doesn't have a right to an opinion, if opinions mattered. But since they don't matter, I can have all the opinions I want. When somebody tells me Karl Rove is the man, I don't get mad inside. I don't stir and stew and edit everything I say, attempting not to let it show I think that person is full of shit. I do, but I don't let it bother me. Neither opinion carries any validity, so I'm not going to get excited. I can talk with somebody about these issues as if they matter, but within I know better. Opinions are fun to talk, like action movies are fun to watch. It's mind candy. Feels good. Tastes good. It's me. It's MY opinion. Mine is right and everybody else's is wrong. It doesn't matter that I'm not the least bit informed.
Sometimes I listen to the Diane Rehm radio interview show on NPR where she talks with some intelligent people who don't throw their minds away having opinions. When somebody calls in and speaks my opinion, it sounds so ridiculous, I project thought to whoever it is talking: shut up. Perhaps the one aspect of her show I like the most is that it batters my opinions with information. Nothing like information to undo opinions. I've often considered letting go of opinions altogether, but I live in the world with all the other people. Having opinions is one of the subjects we talk about when we talk. We try to talk opinions with people who agree with us only, but sometimes the opposition slips in and ends up saying something like, "I'm a Republican." Then I say, "I'm sorry for you." I've chosen a fairly complex way of dealing with it. I go on having opinions and talk about opinions with my friends, except they have no power over me. They are nothing. Just something to run the mouth about. I love what the Australian Aborigines have to say about talking. The Creator gave us our voices to sing His praise, not to talk chatter amongst ourselves.