Day 101: On Tolerance and Truth

Arthur Dent & Ford Prefect (BBC TV)

Today I was listening to a book by Douglas Adams, part of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” series. This book was called Mostly Harmless

But this is all beside the point. What jumped out at me today was a blink-and-you’d-miss-it little gem in a dialogue between Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, who are bickering with each other in their usual manner. It concluded something like this:

Arthur: “I think we have different value systems.”

Ford: “Mine’s better.”

Arthur: “That’s because…. oh, never mind.”

And in that throwaway line, I thought, lies the root of all human conflict since time immemorial. We each, by definition, believe that our own value system is the best. And the real danger comes when we confuse belief with truth, and try to impose it on somebody else.

Some “truths”, of course, can be proved by science. But even here we have to be careful. 500 years ago, we knew for sure that the Sun moved around the Earth. 1000 years ago, we knew the Earth was flat. It’s easy to laugh at such notions now, but at the time these were generally accepted “facts”. Truth may be more subjective than we like to think.

Personally, I’m quite happy for someone to believe the moon is made of blue cheese if they want to, provided that they don’t try to convince me of the same, and that there are no dire consequences of their belief. And herein lies the rub. The Norwegian gunman must have believed, on some level, that what he was doing was right, or at least justifiable. Religion, abortion, racism – the scope for ideological clashes is infinite. And I get the feeling that we are going to encounter these clashes more and more as the Earth becomes a more stressed and stressful place.

We are all living in the same world, seeing similar things, yet drawing different conclusions from the same evidence. I doubt if there are two people reading this blog who share precisely the same worldview, but we can still get along together. We can agree to amicably disagree where necessary. Tolerance doesn’t seem to be very fashionable at the moment, but my word, we are going to need it if there is to be any hope of a, umm, tolerable future.

Other Stuff:

A bit less bouncy today, thank heavens. Still the occasional boatfiller of a wave, but fewer than the last few days. And I ended the day nearly forty nauties (aka nautical miles) to the good. Even a momentary panic with the electrical system turned out to be a loose connection rather than anything more serious. Hurrah!

Another thought-provoker in “Mostly Harmless” – it refers to there being 5.5 billion people on the planet. I think it was written in the 1980s. We have just hit 7 billion, of whom the last 1 billion have appeared in the last 10 years. Clearly not sustainable…

Pippa – I’ve been having a problem with mouldy sprouts too. I have two different mixes. The mix of smaller pulses is fine, but the one with peanuts and chickpeas is a problem. But it is quite edible provided it is well soaked (12 hours), even if they haven’t actually sprouted. And yes, I do keep my grotty old gloves. I’ve already got through about 6 pairs this voyage. We took some of my Pacific ones and got them nicely made up in box frames with a signed photo. Might do the same again this time around.

Mark – it does take a while to reacquire my land legs, but a rocking bed sensation is not a problem. Oooh, I can’t wait to sleep in a proper bed with nice clean, crisp, fragrant sheets!

Currin – thanks for the top tips on Tim Tam consumption (nice alliteration there!). Luckily Lesley also gave me some sachets of instant caramel latte mix. Will attempt the technique, although suspect that a rocking boat may prove too much for such a delicate maneouvre.

Richard Kiyak and Green Goddess Organic Chocolate – I wish I’d known about you before I set out. Can you arrange an airdrop?! (joking – that would of course be very environmentally unfriendly). Most impressed that you use no plastic in your packaging. Keep up the great work!

Inky – hope to see you in London for the Olympics. Make sure you give me a shout nearer the time, and we’ll have to get together. Maybe we can go for a ride on Boris’s Bikes!

Sylvia!!! Lovely to hear from you, and thanks for the jokes. They made me smile. Do you and Becky still tell each other jokes to pass the time during the dreaded “plank”?! Love to all in Salcombe (ah, happy memories of mega-yummy savoury muffins and caramel lattes in Salcombe Coffee Shop!)

Quote for the day: It is always easier to fight for one’s principles than to live by them. (Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler)

Sponsored Miles: Megan Lutz, Doug Grandt and an anonymous donor sponsored some of today’s miles – grateful thanks.

(Why Roz’s progress is not shown)

  • Tom

    Alright, hopefully you will forgive another self-serving post. On this beautiful Philosophy Friday, I offer up another quote from my series of novels, The Version Sequence. The story (“In-Version”) is told from the point of view of a violent psychopath. Which leads us to our “Rod Serling Moment” of the day:
                 
    Morality.

    No one deliberately does evil. Invariably,
    we view our own actions as right and justified. But if the devil’s work can be
    performed with saintly intentions, are we truly as good as we believe ourselves
    to be, or are we instead perverted inversions of that ideal?

  • Anonymous

    I would like to add more modern myths like the general mistrust we once had for the microwave oven and the cancer causing cellular phone. There was even a contingency that believed that NASA staged the entire lunar landing. Countless others exist, no doubt.
     
    A sign company on the East Coast is boasted to have made millions promoting a now exposed myth regarding electromagnetic interferance and modern day hospital equipment. The sign they sold stated, “Cellular phones can interfere with medical devices and must be turned off.”
     
    When plastic was first invented, it replaced the metal housing for hospital equipment. This metal housing protected the device from electromagnetic interferance from other devices. Only a few years worth of equipment made during the early sixties were subject to electromagnetic interference. Almost all have been recalled. The sign company began selling signs in the late 80’s. This can be googled also.
     
    This website has more modern myths, all science based:
    http://learn-science.20m.com/tmyths.htm
     
    The common theme seems to include some semblance of truth and lots of fake marketing. The one thing they have in common is they failed with the test of time. What is interesting is that most psych-(insert parralle thought here) are more interested in why we believe as opposed to what we believe…Your large corporations and entities pay a lot of money for this kind of information…
     
    So the so-called plastic garbage patch… how much time do we have to sit idle while someone else tries to prove it true or false?
     
     
    ~just sayin
     
     
    Happy Birthday Ellen PL in SF. Excited to plan that Roz Returning Rendesvous with you!

    I hope you all will join me and others and send out some well deserved vibes in Roz’s direction tomorrow, Saturday the 13th at sunset.
     
     
    Please tolerate the rest, it is just for levity’s sake :)

    Aoccdrnig to rseearch at Cmabirgde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is that the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.

    Psleae sotp frdaoinwrg tihs rcsaeerh to me! I hvae adaerly rveiceed it vrey mnay teims!

    Row Roz Row!

    ~Jay

  • Stephen Stewart

    Great stuff Jay, Thanks,  Stephen

  • Anonymous

    Roz, I started a reply early this morning and the system went down … just now checked and see it is up … but now I am rushing to catch a bus … great blog … will reply later.

  • Anonymous

    Roz, I started a reply early this morning and the system went down … just now checked and see it is up … but now I am rushing to catch a bus … great blog … will reply later.

  • Anonymous

    Roz, I started a reply early this morning and the system went down … just now checked and see it is up … but now I am rushing to catch a bus … great blog … will reply later.

  • Anonymous

    I just wanted to add that when I went to nursing school, my instructors told of stories warning me to be vigilant for belief changes. The glaring example was that they smoked at the nursing stations. Doctors would perform morning rounds smoking with their patients. Some would offer smokes to their patients if the patient was feeling better, It was a point of humor back then that if a patient with a chest tube (to an injured lung) had smoke come out of the collection chamber, that he/she would need the chest tube to stay in one more day. Imagine me pulling that kind of eval now… 

    I believe that belief systems can and do change rapidly at times. We may be at a tipping point now,,, My suggestion is to gather your friends and family and take them along this new path… If they go willingly, it will make the shift happen faster. If they do not, The test of time will provet that they were stubborn or worse yet, fools… Let’s bring them along, it will be more fun that way.

    Roz, time will tell whether you are amazing or not. Enjoy your sunsets until then. I am willing to wait to find out as I have made up my mind on that one.

    Row Roz Row!

  • Texino

    Rosewater, Although I rarely comment I do check on you every day, so I must admit that I was nervous to find your server down. Glad you are OK.  Aside from that, the moon is made of green cheese.Texino

  • http://www.facebook.com/Moonshadow2 Cynthia Kruger

    Roz . . . fab blog post . . . especially the bits about belief and truth.  That one seems to be the great big elephant in the room no one cares to really address.  We have to surmount that bugaboo if we’re to move forward!

    I’m presently reading, “Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents” by Elizabeth Eaves.  Her description of one wave that swamped the sailboat she was one of the crew on had me thinking of the rough seas you’ve had.  She writes, “I was sitting and Helen was standing when the big wave came.  It came from the stern, which was all wrong.  Storms were supposed to go in one direction, but this one was just churning, crashing violently against itself.  The wave came straight through the hatch and into the cabin, and suddenly we were horizontal to the planet. The mast kissed the sea and I wondered if it would come back up.  . . .   the boat righted.”

    The book is about her journeys all over the globe and back again . . . as she tries to satiate her wanderlust.  Very good!   I recommend it!

  • Anonymous

    Good stuff. Row well Roz.

  • Rick in Colorado

    Roz,  It is wonderful to hear you had such a great day. May you have many more!

    Your Friday post is very thought provoking. I have always found the word tolerance to be interesting. One of its forms, tolerate is defined in part “to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of something that one does not necessarily like or agree with without interference … accept or endure someone or something unpleasant or disliked with forbearance…”Hmm …  “To allow the existence …. or endure someone or something unpleasant…” In stressing or teaching tolerance, are people being taught their opinions or life choices are more acceptable than others, but those others must be endured no matter how unpleasant? That we have the power/choice to not allow differing points of view?Perhaps we should be stressing understanding. Understanding comes from being able to sincerely see an idea or a situation from someone else’s point of view. Tolerance may be an action, while understanding is a *skill* that should be nurtured.But, perhaps tolerance must be learned before understanding can come. Those lacking tolerance seem far from understanding.And, I feel I must point out we are not absolutely sure the moon is not made of green cheese. Man has never landed on the back side of the moon nor had samples returned on robotic missions to the unseen side.Row enduringly Roz!    Rick

  • Meaenglsh

    i know better!

  • Dervin Kathy

    Hi Roz — Glad to hear the waves are calming down a bit. Another take on “Oh, never mind” could be — never mind our differences, let’s find something basic and more important on which we can agree. You’ve talked a little about the sea creatures you see–are there any birds way out there?  Take care and good rowing/rowing for good

  • Ron in Vancouver

    The ingredients of psychosoup are amazing, Rick.

    Perhaps Gustav Ischeiser said it best in “Appearances and Reality”:

    Two people who do not understand each other, who at least understand that they do not understand each other, understand each other better than when not understanding that they do not understand each other. 

    7 billion brains equals 7 billion trains… of thought.  But at least some of us share these concepts.