A Flo-cratic Easter dialogue

A conversation in which Kent (37, atheist) and Flo (6, Jewish), have a semi-successful discussion about religion. At Easter.

Happy Jesus weekend.

Kent: Are you ready for the last day of school before Easter?

Flo: Not everyone believes in Easter. My teacher is a little bit Jewish. That’s what she said, “I’m a little bit Jewish”. People can be whatever they want. They can believe whatever they want to believe.

Kent: That’s right, lot’s of people believe lots of different things.

Flo: Do you want to be be Jewish daddy?

Kent: …um… [tumbleweed] … because my Mummy isn’t Jewish, I can’t just say “I’m Jewish”, I would have to do a test.

Flo: Well why don’t you do the test? I just did my spelling test. It was easy. The Jewish test is probably easy.

Kent: I like hanging out with Jewish people, I’m married to one, but that doesn’t mean that I need to become Jewish as well.

Flo: But why don’t you want to be Jewish? If you’re not Jewish, then what are you?

Kent: I’m not sure of what the right name is, but I believe different things to Jewish people and Christian people.

Flo: Are you a Muslim then? You don’t have a mat, do you?

Kent: No, I’m not a Muslim. And you’re right, I don’t have a mat.

Flo: But I have seen you wrap a book up.

Kent: That was just to stop it getting wet in the rain. Christians and Muslims and Jewish people all believe certain things about God and life, but I don’t think the same things about God. That’s why I’m not Muslim, or Jewish.

Flo: What do they believe that you don’t.

[getting into dangerous territory]

Kent: Well, most of those groups think that God has written rules for how we should live. But I think that people are better at writing those rules. A lot of God’s rules were written a long time ago, and while some of them are good, I don’t think they all make sense any more. So this means that some people are using some rules that don’t make sense. I think what when people come together and share ideas, we can do a better job of figuring out what’s good to do and what’s not good to do. Better than using rules that don’t make sense.

Flo: Like what?

Kent: Like lots of things. Like whether it’s a good idea to eat bacon, or help people, or kill people who believe different things, or give your money away.

Flo: I like bacon.

Kent: That’s right. You’re Jewish and you eat bacon, because you’ve decided that it’s a good thing to do. That’s a people decision.

Flo: Bacon is soooooo yummy.

Kent: Yeah, it’s one of the tastiest things in the world.

Flo: But you don’t eat it. If you like it, why don’t you eat it?

Kent: Because I think it’s better if we don’t eat meat. I think this is one of those things that most people will do a good job of figuring out if we keep sharing ideas. It might just take some time, and even then, lot’s of people might not agree.

Flo: Because bacon is yummy?

Kent: Because bacon is yummy. Especially with banana and maple syrup.

Flo: Banana?!? That sounds disgusting.

Kent: See, I told you people might not agree.

Peeking into the sausage factory

 

I’ve been reading The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield which is amazing and you should absolutely grab a copy if you care about doing the things which matter most to you.

I’ve also been folding lots of washing, which I can also recommend. It’s not an inspirational or insightful activity, but it’s valuable if you don’t want to get divorced.

Normally while folding, I’ll listen to an audiobook version of whatever I’m reading at that time. That way I can do something I like when I’m also doing something I don’t.

Since it’s not that easy to track down The War of Art as an audio book, I’ve been listening to YouTube interviews with Stephen Pressfield whilst I fold. I thought that since I like the book so much, it would be useful and inspiring to listen to him talk about it in depth. It wasn’t.

And herein lies the challenge of peeking behind the curtains of something. Especially something you love. While you’re hoping for additional insight which takes you to a new level of understanding, it’s possible you can find yourself on a tour of a sausage factory, watching someone sweep up a pile of lips and arseholes which are then crudely mashed into that thing you (used to) love.

This got me thinking about when you should and shouldn’t peek behind the scenes (given the opportunity) and whether or not it’s possible to have some helpful guidelines for navigating the decision.

My (unsupported) intuition is that there fundamentalists on both sides of this argument – those who want to know all at all costs, and those for whom ignorance is bliss.

I can see the arguments for both sides having merit, but circumstantial merit. I don’t think that either approach can be applied universally without sacrificing something important.

In the case of this book and listening to the interviews, the peek didn’t add to my enjoyment or appreciation. It offered a strict(er) interpretation of the work which, if taken, eroded a lot of what I felt made it important. In this instance, the peek wasn’t worth it.

But there are just as many, if not more examples, of times when it’s been helpful to look behind the scenes, even if it’s ruined my appreciation for something. Peeking behind the scenes of factory farming, ruined my appetite for meat, but I’m grateful that I have the information, because now I feel I have a better position on eating meat (I don’t eat it).

After the fact, it’s easy to know if the peek was worth it since you can judge whether or not your position has improved based on what you have learned. Unfortunately, hindsight only works one way.

You could also argue that your position always improves by learning more, it’s just that you might not learn precisely that which you were looking for.

I didn’t get more nuance and insight about the book, but I did get a good lesson in not projecting your feelings about at artwork, onto its creator. You can love a work and dislike the artist. The reverse is also true.

I’ve been trying to find the criteria which might help make the choice not to look behind the scenes in appropriate circumstances, but doesn’t offer a haven to those who, like in the farming example, don’t want to face the grim reality of their own choices.

I think there are some useful questions to ask which might help determine if it’s worth your time, but I don’t think any (with perhaps the exception of the last one), help to really get us closer to a guideline.

  • Will this peek help me make better decisions, regardless of what I see?
  • Is my understanding of this thing nuanced or advanced?
  • How attached am I to my perception of this thing?
  • Is the value purely in my perception, or is it somewhere external?
  • What is the value / cost of having that perception shift?
  • How long will it take to look behind the scenes, and what will I have to sacrifice to do so?
  • Do I have an ethical obligation to understand more about this thing?

Despite where I thought that I might get to when I started writing this, I think that I’m coming down on the side of “always look”. Sure, somethings you’re going to see things you don’t like and which don’t really help you in the short term.

The only exception to this, might be when it’s very costly/time consuming to look, and there is absolutely no ethical obligation of have a peek.

It’s frustrating not to be able to get to a more solid position, but sometimes you just have to recognise there is more value in admitting something is grey than attempting to declare it black and white.

As for The War of Art, you should still get the book – it’s great. But when you’re folding washing, maybe you should just concentrate on what you’re doing. I know I should.

Let me know in the comments which side of the fence you come down on with respect to having a peek.