As I work on the next installments to my “None of the Above” series — the first was published yesterday — this essay by Roger L. Simon caught my eye. It deserves a full read, though the following passages struck me as the most familiar and (perhaps) comforting to folks like me who refuse to stand firm on the ground of any so-called ideology.
No wonder, like Linus clinging to his blanket, we cleave to these very old, conventional and often sclerotic viewpoints more than we should—even though [they] tend to blind us to the world in front of us and deny us the freedom to find a solution outside our little frames. Unconventional ideas become more threatening than they should because they don’t fit our received schema …
We all engage in the creation and disputation of ideologies. But if we let them always govern us, we are not free. We lose our mental flexibility and waste a great deal of time proving we are right (correct in our ideology) and that our adversaries are nitwits. We also decrease the likelihood of intelligent compromise and progress.
… I regard whatever paltry knowledge, whatever theories I have picked up or adopted in my life like arrows in a quiver. Most days I might be pulling the same arrow, but some days, when the prey changes, when the target shifts, as sometimes it does, I might pull a totally different arrow. I could be a capitalist for three weeks, but a Marxist for the fourth, a Freudian one day and a Zen Buddhist the next, a free trader for years and even — once in a while … — a protectionist. But most of all I want to be free to contradict myself and to be wrong, because I am not always right. And when I look for a President, I look for someone with the same capacity.