So, You’ve Changed Your Mind

Written by Spurlock, copied from LessWrong.com.

 

So you’ve changed your mind. Given up your sacred belief, the one that defined so much of who you are for so long.

 

You are probably feeling pretty scared right now.

 

Your life revolved around this. There is not a single aspect of your life that will not feel the effects of this momentous tumult. Right now though, you’re still in shock. You know that later, little by little, as you lie awake in bed or stare at your desk at work, the idea will creep its way through the web of your mind. It will touch each and every idea, and change it, and move on. And that changed idea will change other ideas, and those ideas will change as well. Who are you as a person if not the person who holds that idea? For as this new notion gradually but violently makes its way through your skull, will it not upset everything that you know, everything that you do, everything that you are? Will you not then be another person?

 

The thought is terrifying. What person will you be?

 

Will you be like the jackasses that you argued against for so long? Yes, they were right all along, but damn they were infuriating. Is that your lot now? Another loud-mouth, uncompromising, thick-skulled, pushy, self-righteous snob who lives for the thrill of making everyone else feel ignorant? Dear God. Is that your fate? Perhaps in just a few days? You’re reminded of the film character who has just been bitten by a zombie: Knowing the disgusting, horrific, inhuman beast he is now doomed to become, he says good-bye to The Girl, politely leaves the room, and wraps his mouth around both barrels of his shotgun.

 

Is that it then? Better dead than Red? But surely this is nonsense. For starters, you know damn well that you just don’t have the, well… courage? resolve? commitment? hopelessness? inclination? lack-of-perspective? impulsiveness? Whatever it is that separates those who could actually, really and truly, do such a thing, from… you. But really now. If this isn’t “game over”… then why not? Hasn’t this been your reason for Everything? Doesn’t that make Everything, QED, a lost cause now? Difficult to see why it wouldn’t.

 

And yet… there is the feeling that it doesn’t. You don’t want to throw it all away. You don’t know why, and part of you condemns your fickleness, but throwing it all away just doesn’t feel as right as it sounds.

 

Well, perhaps it’s not right. Really, when you take a second to actually think of reasons to go on… where to begin? You still love your spouse, and you still want to see your kids grow up… why cut your time with them short? You still take pride in your job, most days. You still like the taste of pizza, which is actually sounding really good right about now. Hell, you still have another season and a half of Doctor Who to get through. Perhaps you’ve lost your “purpose”, for the time being, but you’ve still got reasons.

 

Maybe that idea wasn’t as far-reaching as you told yourself it was. Even now, in the immediate aftermath, you can see that it must not have been your real reason for getting out of bed in the morning. Because you know that tomorrow morning, despite everything, you’re going to get out of bed. Maybe the world will seem new and scary, but honestly, how long could you possibly just sit in bed? Even if you didn’t have to pee.

 

Maybe you told yourself that it was your reason for loving your parents, for going to work, for learning and socializing and creating and breathing… but then, maybe you weren’t being totally honest with yourself. Because here you are, and while you might be feeling a little overwhelmed right now… you know that you still want to do those things. So then… maybe that wasn’t your true motivation all along, like you always said it was. Well, fine. You’re already cleaning out ideas, might as well clean out the related, faulty, meta-ideas too.

 

And slowly, hesitantly, your fear starts to dissipate. You feel a curious sense of clarity. You don’t have to become a zombie. Because in this brave new world, zombies are still obnoxious and intolerable. You still can’t stand just how infuriating they are. And really that was the reason you were so disgusted at the thought of becoming one of them. Your ideas about what it means to be on “their side”… those were just poisoned meta-ideas too. Just like the lies about your “purpose for living”, they were just one more road block you set up to block your own escape route. Preemptive self-sabotage. My, were you ever committed.

 

For a moment, you are confused. You’ve just realized that perhaps a lot of your ideas are poisonous slave-ideas like this one. You’ve realized that perhaps you’ll be overturning even more ideas that you feared. And yet, you are comforted. How could this realization possibly be comforting?… And then you see it: it’s because you realize that that more of these ideas you give up, the easier it will be to let the core idea go.

 

Come to think of it, most of your real ideas will be fine. There’s no reason to expect that you’ll have to overturn your notions about the blueness of the sky, the four-ness of two plus two, the wrongness of murder, the rightness of compassion, the awesomeness of London Calling or the awfulness of Bridezillas. The only beliefs that you’ll have to overturn are the ones that were holding you back anyway. The ones that either grew out of a mistake, or were planted just to protect that mistake.

 

Your commitment to that mistake has filled your mind with junk. In fact, a lot of that junk would still be junk even if the idea had been right. Perhaps the commitment itself hurt you more than the idea… Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned there… but there will be plenty of time later to ponder that.

 

Either way, you suddenly find yourself feeling a lot more optimistic about the house cleaning that’s coming up over the next few days. Of course you’re going to change: you’ve been given a real chance to improve yourself. Might as well wring every last precious drop out of it. And if “purpose” is still something you find yourself needing… well, you’ll find a better one. For the time being, as long as there is something you care about, anything at all, there will be something that needs doing.

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