Yeah, But

“We want the facts to fit the preconceptions.  When they don’t it is easier to ignore the facts than to change the preconceptions”
Jessamyn West
American Author
1902-1984

I read this quote recently and thought to myself “old Jessamyn may be on to something”.  I had never given it much thought, but in retrospect, I believe she is right. How often are we confronted with something that runs counter to our belief and when presented with facts to support it, try to rationalize the result so that it agrees with what we think.  

It doesn’t have to be a big thing.  In fact, it’s the little things that are most easily justified since there is no penalty for clinging to your opinion.  For instance, many of the little tiffs, no disagreements, no, make that animated discussions my wife and I have are over the little things.  Being accused of leaving the lights on when I know I turned them off and she must have forgotten that she was in there after I was, or why the clothes in the dryer are still wet even after she swears that she started it and says it must have accidentally been set on a short cycle.  Yeah, I know how that goes.

But it is the big things that are a lot tougher to argue that really require a great degree of spin to support.  Just look at our government.  More specifically, the media that reports on the doings of the government.  I think the phrase most commonly used is “talking heads”.  These are people closest to our political morass that make their living imparting their infinite wisdom to inform and educate us mere citizens.  Their proclamations and conclusions are pristine and emanate from the lips of the divine.  That is, until the facts are made known.  Then they alter course and either give reasons why the facts are wrong and they are right, point to another supposedly similar issue to support their conclusions, or parse their prior statements to defend their position while bending the facts to their advantage.  Bottom line is, they are never wrong, just misunderstood.  Who can forget Bill Clinton and his “it depends on what the meaning of “is” is.”  If you want further proof, just look up the word Benghazi.

  I once challenged a teacher on the spelling of a word and was told it was correct as written.  Not to be denied, the next day I brought in a copy of the word as it was spelled in my dictionary at home.  The teachers cool reply was “yes, I believe it can be spelled that way also, but it is not the common spelling.”  You say potato and I say patato.  Let’s call the whole thing off.

Several years ago, before I retired, my company adopted a program called 6 Sigma.  The premise was that problems are normally addressed by discussing the result and suggesting solutions based on preconceptions.  6 Sigma introduced a four step process of Measure, Analyse, Improve, and Control which required looking at the whole process before changing anything.  After being involved in several projects where this philosophy was put to the test, guess which component turned out to be the most important.  It was the control phase.  Without it, those that believed that they knew the solution all along returned to the same things they had previously done, ignoring the facts that had been compiled.

So Jessamyn, I lift a cup to you.  It appears you have put into words something that most,  if not all of us, has put into practice.   I believe that and nothing will change my mind.  Not even facts.  Just sayin.

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About oldmainer

I am retired and live in southern Maine with my wife and two dogs. I started Oldmainer .wordpress.com as an outlet for my occasional opinions and random observations, with some poetry thrown in. I welcome anyone that wants to kick back and join me here on the porch, exploring all the gifts we have been given and the memories collected. Thanks for stopping by.
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7 Responses to Yeah, But

  1. bgbowers says:

    I really enjoyed this post. Personally, I enjoy challenging my own preconceptions, and it’s not until you start examining them that you realise how much of your actions and reactions are controlled by those preconceptions. Preconceptions might not be so harmful if we were a nation/world of independent thinkers, unfortunately that’s not generally the case.

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  2. To be willing to analyze new information and integrate it into existing structures of knowledge – changing our ideas about how the world works as we go – takes maturity and a special kind of curiosity and humbleness. If we think we already know it all then we hear only what we want to hear. The truly curious person seeks out situations where their ideas are challenged. I often saw, as a university instructor, the struggle that students had to integrate new knowledge. It can be a painful process, for sure. Thanks for writing such a thoughtful post on this subject.

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    • oldmainer says:

      Thanks for stopping by my blog. I don’t think a lot of us have any idea how much we limit ourselves by refusing to step outside our comfort zone. And with today’s technology, many are less prone to do so. Electronic communication has reduced society to only talking and listening to those that agree with us. Opinions and beliefs contrary to ours are tuned out.

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  3. I’ve forgotten where the square is I was thinking outside of. I think people in the media and government are afraid to make decisions or tell the truth, or perhaps think for themselves. Recycled BS seems to be the order of the day.
    Laurie.

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