What’s the Point?

You may wonder what the title of this post means. Or you may look at the website and wonder those very words: “What’s the point?” After all, experts tell us that we should have a definite goal in mind when starting a blog. That’s probably good advice, but a lot of people seem to blog just so they can be heard. I guess the same is partly true for me.

Indeed, one of my leading motives for doing this was to find an outlet. I have a lot to say and very little opportunity to “be heard.” And as much as I love the sound of my own voice speaking great truths into the wind, I can’t get those words back once they’ve blown away. So instead, I thought I would write them down for posterity… or for anyone who cares to read them. (Counting myself, that’s one.)

But seriously, I do have personal reasons for creating this blog. To begin with, I enjoy more intellectual conversation than I often find. History, philosophy, religion, politics—these are the basis for everything we believe in, and they give us a better understanding of human nature and the world around us. Thoughts of them tend to occupy a great deal of my time, and it would be nice to share those thoughts with others.

Being an introvert doesn’t mean being shy or reclusive. (Isn’t that what people say? I’m not sure, I never speak to them.) But going through life with my nose in a book doesn’t often lead to much socializing. I’m a friendly person, but I prefer deep discussion to small talk. (I agree, the weather’s fine. Let’s move on.) I have nothing to say in most casual conversation. No stories to share. I live alone, have no kids, and can’t afford to travel much. To borrow from a celebrity T-shirt, there’s “not a lot going on at the moment.” And the people I meet are generally less interested in meaningful conversation.

Of course, there are people who share my interests, but finding them is another story. I’m not anti-social, but I have very little in common with those around me. I sometimes wish I could announce myself for the simple purpose of meeting others with my thirst for knowledge and love of the truth. If I could fully and openly express myself in some quietly public way, maybe I could find like-minded individuals or even engage those looking for an intellectual challenge. I just need to put myself out there: “This is what I like, this is what I believe, and now we can talk about it.”

So it’s true, in one sense, that I want to express myself and connect with others like me. But those are only the “selfish” reasons for starting this blog. There is a deeper point to all of it, even if it’s not as specific or refined as the advice columnists say it should be. I don’t need to make money out of this (though I won’t turn it down, if anyone wants to write me a check). I don’t need to become famous (though if I end up with an entourage of beautiful women, so be it). I have far more serious and thoughtful motives.

I want to make a difference, to contribute something to society that might have a positive influence on the way people think. There are better ways of doing that, to be sure; this may seem trivial or lazy, and perhaps it is. But I’m playing to my strengths. And while charity or activism can be effective ways to bring change, it is far more effective, far more lasting and important, to change our hearts and minds. It’s good to pass laws that punish evil acts; it’s far better to realize that our acts are evil so that we may change our ways and prevent the need for punishment.

My words may have no impact whatsoever. I don’t even know if people will read this, at least for some time. But it’s something I can do to participate in the public sphere of conversation. I’m often disturbed by the hostility, ignorance, hypocrisy, and arrogance with which people express themselves. And I want to speak up, to be a voice of reason, if only to make people examine their own position. This is my humble attempt to do so.

Sometimes, I just want to play devil’s advocate. It’s easy to misrepresent “the other side” in an argument. But it’s not always easy to treat them fairly and honestly, regardless of how we feel about them. My ultimate interest, as I’ve said before, is the truth—regardless of whom it offends or vindicates. If I can help people recognize not only the need for but the very nature of truth, then I’ll feel that I’ve helped them.

Other times, I want to say what nobody else is saying… or perhaps say it in a way that nobody else is saying it. People often give a miserable defense of their position on morality or religion, while some avoid unpopular truths to retain popular approval. But there are better answers to a lot of hard questions than we’re sometimes led to believe, and I will gladly submit a few for consideration if nobody else can think of them.

Whether it’s a general disregard for the facts or a sloppy exposition of some issue I care about, the truth isn’t always reflected by the outcome of a debate. It’s easy to be swayed by eloquent speech, quick wit, sharp memory, regal bearing, and loud applause. Those things might all be good, but they are not synonymous with the truth. It’s easy to be outdone by a good debater, no matter his position. So I write partly to let off steam for this injustice, while hopefully pointing others to the truth.

Maybe here, people will be more inclined to “listen.” In the 21st century, people tend to avoid face-to-face discussion of opposing viewpoints. It makes them uncomfortable, puts them on the spot. They don’t like confrontation and are often unprepared to defend their position, which then leaves them embarrassed or overwhelmed. Some can’t even tolerate disagreement. No one has the time or patience for such thought-provoking conversation anymore.

Now, it’s true that none of this is an excuse. We should all know how to communicate like adults, to have a serious discussion for the sake of improving ourselves and our society. If we don’t like the truth, we should frankly learn to deal with it. But I understand the instinct to run the other way. Nobody wants to spoil a good day on a single conversation, and I can relate. I confess, I often lack some of the necessary virtues needed in public discussion. Patience and humility can be hard to maintain when debating a misinformed know-it-all.

So this is my non-confrontational attempt to make up for it. Here, I can say my piece as I would hope to do in person. I can collect my thoughts in advance and avoid a lot of unnecessary hostility. (After all, I’m a fragile flower whose feelings must be protected.) But I also hope to encourage others to listen and respond who otherwise might not. Here, they can absorb what I’m saying as slowly as they like without having to reply; and they can react any way they please: rant and rave, ignore me, or take my words to heart. This may not be ideal, but it’s a start.

After all, we can’t (and shouldn’t) avoid public conversation. But it’s good to be prepared, and the best preparation is done in writing. If I can state my case here, then at least I’ll have a foundation. At least I can say, “Here’s my blog. Read it, and you’ll see what I’m trying to say.” In the meantime, as a concerned citizen and Christian, I can still work at improving those defects in my public performance to present my case better in the future.

Because one of the things I hope to accomplish is to open and participate in public discussion. When Martin Luther posted his famous 95 Theses in 1517, he wasn’t trying to start a movement; he just wanted to encourage conversation. And while I’m not comparing myself to Luther, I do believe in what he did: to combat error, he fostered discussion. The best way to suppress the truth is to silence those who disagree, and that’s why I want to help move the conversation along… even if I have to start one myself. There’s more to life than our latest television binge. There are more important things that we should spend our time thinking and talking about.

I understand that we’re not all interested in academic studies or intellectual pursuits. But we’re all invested in the world around us to some degree. We all care if the economy tanks, if our nation goes at war, or if a virus sweeps the country. And while we may not give much thought to politics or religion, we all change our tune when it comes to personal affairs. I want to encourage people to learn and grow by choice. Experience may be the best teacher, but it still gives just a sampling of the “big picture.” Other people have different experiences, and the best way to improve ourselves is by learning about them so that we may better understand the world.

I enjoy studying for the sake of gaining knowledge. But I want to do more with what I learn than simply “know things.” I want to apply it to my life, to let it shape me and motivate me. I want to share it with others in ways that might influence them to do the same. So much goes on in the world that we barely understand and yet we still claim to have opinions on them. I want to encourage others to examine their lives and seek the truth, wherever it leads. Ultimately, I want to make a difference not in politics or entertainment, but where it matters most: in hearts and minds. If I can change the world in some small way as I go, then it will have been worth it.

But starting a conversation is just the beginning. I want to invite conversation, to encourage self-examination and healthy debate for people from all walks of life, not to hold hands and sing kum-be-yah, but to challenge one another and rethink what we believe. Sure, I have my own worldview that I will put forward, but I want to share it, not impose it. If I’m wrong, show me how, but I’ll do the same for you. I would rather someone tell me the truth, even if it’s not what I want to hear; so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you want the same.

Because ultimately, there’s one thing we should all be looking for: the truth. Regardless of who’s right or wrong on a particular issue, it’s easy to be misinformed. Most of us assume that happens to the other side, but too often that’s because we only listen to those who tell us what we want to hear. We need to open our own eyes if we want others to do the same. If half the population disagrees with us, we might want to hear what they have to say. Maybe we’re the ones being duped. Maybe we’re the hypocrites for judging them. Maybe they see things better than we do.

I know that there are already lots of people speaking out on this (probably better than I can), and that I may just be another voice in the crowd. But so what? It often takes many voices to be heard. And when the truth is hard to find, we have to speak out. It’s not enough just to have a conversation. We have to change the conversation. And if I am one voice in a crowd, then maybe I’ll be the one who says what someone needs to hear, instead of what they want to hear.

I may not always know the truth. But if all I can do is open people’s eyes to mistruths and help people see the difference, then it’s enough. I can’t sit by and do nothing. At the very least, I can share my faith (as I did in the last post). And maybe I’ll have a little fun along the way.

The title of this blog is “Think Truth” because I want people to do just that: think about the truth. When I wake up in the morning and lie down at night, I want to know the truth. I want to know what I’m living for. “What’s the point” of it all? For me, it’s exactly this: to know the truth and help others do the same.

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