Friday, June 17, 2011
Speaking with authority
But I know how people operate—I’m a person myself. (And yes, it takes one to know one.) We look for short cuts. We want to see a resume before granting anyone a few minutes of our time. Their pedigree is important, and we check for letters behind their name. We have this strange and fanciful notion that there exists a direct relationship between the value of an idea and the calibre of the person who voices it. Great ideas arise only from great people, right? You’ll only harvest mediocrity from the mediocre.
Well yes, but only up to a point. You run a danger if you believe it verbatim. The thing is—while a correlation undoubtedly exists, you’re going to get into trouble if you believe that this is always the case. If you assume that the law is infallible, and you make a rule of disregarding people who lack the ‘right’ background, then somewhere along the way you’ll miss out. Conversely, you’re going to take a lot of rubbish aboard if you pay attention to everything uttered by everyone with a holier-than-thou reputation.
Ordinarily, when one the great unwashed decides to speak their mind on a religious or spiritual topic, a defense mechanism leaps into action. Polite society kicks in its boot with, ‘Oh no, you can’t speak with any authority! You’ve got to prove that you’re an expert first. Only then will we listen. Go away until you can prove your own pudding. And scour your closet for any skeletons before you show your face again.’
This approach helps to winnow out the flotsam, I suppose, but the technique isn’t foolproof. You could all too easily throw out the baby with the bathwater. I reckon that it’s a cop-out to lend an ear only to orators suitably licensed. Doing so is an excuse not to do some thinking of your own. It behooves a person to look at the larger picture, especially if that picture paints itself as the largest one extant.