Last night, as I watched the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees baseball game, the TV camera panned over the audience and then stopped for a few seconds when it encountered former U.S. President George W. Bush.
George W. Bush represents a lot of things I dislike: A guy who was born on third base and imagines he hit a triple; a front-man for the wealthy at the expense of those who provide that wealth; a man who insists on saying "nucular" where the word "nuclear" might be more appropriate; a man whose numbness always astounded and frightened me; and a man of little or no apparent honor.
Yes, I dislike him and his public accomplishments.
On another front, some time ago, a woman friend of mine -- someone who had a Ph.D. in philosophy and two daughters -- decided she wanted to write an article about abortion. She was a liberal and generally favored the accessibility of abortion, but she wanted to put a face on the actual procedure.
In the course of gathering information, she contacted Planned Parenthood, an organization that espouses the right of a woman to have an abortion. Planned Parenthood was more than happy to talk to her about its views ... right up until they found out she wanted to write about the physical and psychological particulars. Then they balked and proved more obstructionist than helpful. It was OK to make an omlette, but a discussion of cracking eggs was not in their playbook.
What Bush and Planned Parenthood have in common in my mind is the habit of running out of steam when it comes to one point of view, one bias or another. Isn't it the same for most of our most cherished opinions or beliefs? This is good. That is bad. How do I know? I know because I have collected a certain amount of information and decided that that amount of information is sufficient to forming a short-hand opinion or prejudice. There always seems to be a point where the energy/willingness to investigate runs out and there is a wall of unwillingness to think about it further. And in this way, I formulate and collate my opinions. I have 'proved' as much as I can, as much as I have energy for ... and here is my conclusion. And that conclusion, that wall, is filed along with other conclusions to indicate who I am and where I stand. I may revise my conclusions at some point ... but not just now.
The walls form a perimeter that makes me feel safe. Others will agree, so it is a sociable business. And for those who disagree ... well, they fortify my resistance, my willingness to fight ... or perhaps my willingness to change my mind and erect a slightly different wall.
Walls speak their own language. And central to their vocabulary is the word, "stop!" Within and without -- stop!
But what if my oh-so-satisfying assumptions and conclusions and walls ... what if there was no need for them? What if George W. Bush and abortion particulars and spiritual endeavor were unwalled possibilities that came and went as the need arose? Wouldn't that be easier? Wouldn't that be more in accord with the life we actually live?
Scarier, sure. But easier.