We are regularly told there is one true way. One true way for almost everything. There is one true way to recover. One true way to parent. One true religion. One true political philosophy and one true economic system. There is one true science, one true god, and one true reality. There is Star Wars or Star Trek, Slytherin or Gryffindor.
And, every person in every group believes that their one true way is the correct one.
This then becomes a logic problem. Everything can’t be the one true way, can it? And, which ones are wrong? The answer is surprisingly easy. “Wrong” are all ways that aren’t yours, because despite what others think, we know in our hearts that our way of thinking and believing is the correct one. If only other people could come to understand what we know to be right. We can get exceptionally enthusiastic in our efforts to bring the light. We are quick to denounce other paths and we can get quite aggressive about it.
So much for tolerance.
This conviction of ultimate rightness is the inevitable result of “one true way” thinking; in addition to a lack of tolerance, one could argue that the “one true way” philosophy tends to breed arrogance. Thinking that you know the one true way for God and ethics and morality and whether it’s Marvel or DC is arrogant in the extreme. And arrogance rarely leads to good outcomes.
At last count, the ice cream world boasted well beyond Baskin & Robbins’ original fifty-seven flavours. Many hundreds of flavours, both savory and sweet, now occupy space at the various ice cream shops. I prefer fruit-based concoctions. A nice strawberry, a lovely dark cherry. Perhaps some refreshing lime, if I’m in a sherbet frame of mind. But to me it seems obvious that a fruit-based flavour is the way to go.
Vanilla is bland, chocolate is cloying, and ripple flavours are just vanilla in a weak disguise, with never enough of the add-on flavour. As for the people who choose tiger stripe or beet, well, they’re obviously deranged and in need of a serious intervention. And don’t even get me started on macaroni-and-cheese or beef flavoured ice cream. Choosing those should be a crime.
Kidding. I don’t care what flavour of ice cream someone eats. I have my preferences but those are mine. There is no need for me to impose my tastes on others, and I’ve never once considered it. I still get along with the poor, not-fruit consumers. The way I look at it, their flavour choices are theirs and unless it fundamentally and negatively affects me or society, they should be free to indulge their own preferences.
I’m capable of mustering a similar detachment in a variety of other areas: beverage choices, eating meat, toilet paper over or under, and who was the better Dumbledore (though I’d go with Richard Harris). Why then is it so difficult to muster the same sense of acceptance and detachment over matters religious, political, and philosophical?
My gut response is that, well, the stakes are higher. Believing that Tin Roof Sundae is superior to Mint Chocolate Chip doesn’t have serious repercussions. Believing that some people are less than and thus less deserving of society’s protections and advantages does. Believing that one political party is your saviour and the other intends to destroy your way of life also lends a certain gravitas.
Yet, on an individual basis, should my response be significantly different? I would vehemently oppose changes to legislation that are contrary to my beliefs and principles, contrary to the will of the majority, or that I believed would harm society but is that level of vehemence necessary in our day-to-day discourse? Do we have to burn every opposing opinion to the ground? Does there always have to be a winner?
Can’t we get along?
Social media would suggest that yes, a scorched earth policy with regard to your “enemies” is the way to go. When and how did we come to this, requiring total homogeneity? Certainly, a level of it was always expected within our societal groups yet it seems to me that of late, the demand for believing in and defending the “one true way” is increasing. We are becoming more tribal.
An overall consensus is required when building a set of rules for a society. The majority gets to makes up the guidelines and they aren’t set in stone. They change as society changes and evolves. But within the over-arching views, once upon a time, people were allowed to have different opinions without being treated like the enemy.
When did different thoughts become so scary?
We are moving away from tolerating diversities of opinion and it is problematic. It’s rare for good things to come of sectarianism.
My one true way is based on who I am, and where I live, and my position in society, and how much money I have, and what my family was like, and the things I’ve read and the education I’ve had, and it’s specific to me. My one true way may not work for everyone or even anyone else. Perhaps absolutely no one would believe in it. Who am I to say that it is qualitatively better just because it’s what I believe? It works for me and doesn’t hurt anyone else. These are the only things I can know about it with any certainty.
Having your own one true way mostly doesn’t cause others grief so you think I’d be left alone but I’ve had any number of conversations about why my one true way, since it differs from the lecturer’s, is incorrect. Why I need to get onboard the correct train. My usual refusal to immediately adopt a like-minded position on whatever topic is under discussion seems to be taken as a fundamental repudiation of their persons. Our views and actions are becoming less sophisticated and nuanced. We are starting to struggle with getting along.
Rather than working so hard to export our own “one true way”, perhaps learning once more to listen would be a good idea. People are complicated and we are more than soundbites. We are more than our opinion on one topic. And, I suspect, most people are more alike than we realize on most things. The obsession over conforming to the narrowly-focused “one true way” obscures that.
There are big issues that should not be compromised on, of course. Racism, bigotry, and hatred spring immediately to mind. But on the whole, instead of focusing on our differences in one single area of life, it might be better to get back to a policy of “live and let live” and focus on fostering communication based on our commonalities instead.
Do you believe in the “one true way”?