It was the girl who definitely farted. I could feel her self-consciousness from my corner of the elevator, the way her face turned slightly crimson, and the way she shuffled slightly backwards. The gentleman in front of us turned with a distressed face at the noxious odor, demanding to know which one of us had contaminated the air. ”Why is it”, I asked the man, “that people always demand to know who farted as though they’ll decide how disgusted they’ll be based on the person responsible?”
For the rest of that afternoon I kept asking myself: What is the point of all these useless verbal sounds? To fill air and deprive one of silence? I also thought: Why, whenever I research the opinion on a topic, am I met with such an immense discrepancy and variety of opinions?
Listening to the conversations of others, getting involved in conversations of my own and reading discussions online, have taught me how little I enjoy social interaction of the conversational sort.
5 Ways Opinionated Conversation is Futile
1# Emotional and Mental State At The Time
Often I’ve found myself vigorously liking or disliking a book I’ve read, movie I’ve watched or place I was at. Often, after revisiting them, I’d realize it wasn’t always because of the recipient of my attention, but more to do with my emotional or mental state at the time. As human beings, our perceptions and our critical factors are at the mercy of our whimsical filters of life. Unlike computers, we filter life through how we feel in that precise moment. After a certain experience in life, we find a song, a book, a movie or meet a person that we feel speaks to us and in turn our critical factors are controlled and haltered. For example, if you’re tired, frustrated and in a negative state of mind after a long day while watching a complex movie, the film will make you impatient and will seem unpleasant. If you’ve recently lost a family member and a song comes on the radio about the loss of a loved one, that song will touch all the right feelings. Keep that in mind the next time you’re reading reviews online.
2# Psychological Conditioning and Re-activeness
Your upbringing will certainly play a large part in your forming of opinions. We react according to our conditioning. For example, if you’ve grown up as a vegetarian and you’re presented with meat, you reactively become nauseated and sick. This isn’t because of the food but because of your psychological conditioning as a child. A meat eater conditioned to eat meat will feel appetite, not nausea, and will be happy and thrilled… yet he too is conditioned. This reminds me of renown Psychologist and Behaviorist B.F Skinner, who tested on mice his theories of conditioning. The mice must of thought “poor Skinner is a good man, but you have to condition him first. When I push this button, my breakfast comes in immediately. I have conditioned him perfectly, yet he thinks he’s conditioning me!” To people raised religiously, activities, topics or art involving that which is seen as ‘sinful’ will make them react with aversion. To one who has conditioned himself through belief as an atheist, religious ideas will force him to react angrily. No matter what, your opinion is a reactive slave to your conditioning.
3# Ignorance From Lack of Knowledge
You base your opinions on knowledge you have on the subject. Knowledge is gained either from information or experiences. Both these qualities are relative in each person. How often have you heard people complaining or gossiping about something you realized was unfounded, because you took into consideration a piece of information they didn’t? Similarly, often we hear in the news of uncovered scandalous videos or affairs of respectable public figures that were once praised, and now ridiculed. The more knowledge you have, the more capable you are of being empathetic or humble enough to not be as quick to judge. Experiences are vital to form opinions because they serve to create comparisons. A person that’s never been to Europe or has interest in its culture will find European films tedious, while one that has, will marvel at how well the European society has been captured and portrayed. Someone who has never eaten good or authentic Indian cooked food, may find their local corner Indian Restaurant a delight for the senses and recommend it to all their friends. Isn’t that what the majority of conversation is? Opinionated recommendations? Your opinion on anything will be highly based on how much experience and information you have about the person/film genre/culture/thought system/dog breed/car radiator. Knowledge is relative in a person.
4# Narration of an Anecdote
Many times I’ve found myself in the situation where someone is narrating to me this ‘hilarious’ “This one time….” incident that made me feel like an autistic person in comparison with the laughter the memory invoked in them. Granted it’s not really their fault. Certainly the occurrence must have been quite amusing, and I do gain pleasure by serving as a catalyst for them to remember the event and get overjoyed all over again. But the expectation of me finding it as amusing as they do is absurd. Whenever you experience a situation you feel is anecdote worthy, you’ll realize most of the amusement is gained from the moment in which it happened. There’s a build up of energy you feel surge through your body when that event happened that the person you narrate to won’t feel as you did. This happens all the time. e.g. You may have been in a small group in a room, there’s an atmosphere of awkwardness you know you’re all feeling, the contextual build up of not knowing what to say rises, and then someone spontaneously says; “_____” and everyone roars with laughter. But when you relate this to someone, the interest of the recipient is not the same as your own. Or the adrenaline and despair you’re feeling when your sports team is down by one and you’re watching the match live, the physical tension is building and then suddenly out of the blue; ___ passes it to ___, ___ does the impossible and …Goal!!! Narrating to someone something will never be as amusing as having experienced it.
5# Communication Through Words
Lastly, opinions are conveyed through words. And words are the most complex, arbitrary, relative symbolic forms there is. Words encompass all of the above reasons why communication via these symbols is a hindrance to connecting with another. Words are deceiving. When two people say “I Love You”, what one person associates and defines with the word “love”, the other person can associate with an entirely different experience. For some love can mean comfort, for others it can be emotional pangs of acceptance and understanding and yet for others it can mean fear of getting hurt and consequently a need to control the other. It’s all dependent on your conditioning towards what feelings you’ve labeled as what, yet funny enough we’re all using the same words. What I define as “beautiful” is relative to what I’m comparing it too (which in itself is dependent on the quantity of experience and information the observer has) and what appeals to their relative and arbitrary taste of what they find attractive. The petals of a flower can be called “beautiful” as can the vastness of the sky or a starry night. But are they both the same type of beautiful? Does everything you label “beautiful” arouse the exact same feeling inside of you?
Everyone is in search of the ‘absolute’, and the right objective opinion, or else we wouldn’t waste so much time with aimless discussion. Whether that absolute opinion exists I don’t know, although I’ve listed why our subjective perception of it is why we’ll never find it. In my next article I’ll explain what meaningful benefits I’ve discovered in conversing with others. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts, this is merely my subjective opinion after all.