If the Shoe Fits, Wear It

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Some years ago, I read a biography of G.K. Chesterton, a very colorful and gifted writer, thinker, and debater.  Of many worthy and often quoted sayings of his, one is "Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions."  Applied to Western thought, it fits.  In America, we celebrate our rights to live freely, given that our actions fit underneath the general umbrella of "as long as it doesn't cause someone else harm."  It's American as apple pie.

Let's try the other shoe and see if it fits as well.  "Intolerance is the virtue of the man with convictions."  If a person believes resolutely in something, then necessarily it excludes belief in something's opposite.  In short, rigidity in thought, belief or actions can't help but contradict, oppose, or upset those held by others.  In a land where everyone has the right to think, believe and act as they see fit (whilst remaining under the general umbrella), persons with convictions are often seemed a threat.

The trouble with absolute statements is that they're so absolute.  Let's try a test phrase.

"Me, I just say look, it's a little minority of some [...]who think they can tell people what kind of [...], and the [...] people of [...] are never going to buy into that."

Sounds like it's referring to a little group of convicted people, doesn't it?  And of what are they convicted?  Thinking, believing, acting.  But who is being intolerant?  Is it the little minority of some group, or is it the person making the observation who doesn't tolerate them?

Here's the full quote:

"Me, I just say look, it's a little minority of some small-minded religious wackos who think they can tell people what kind of T-shirts and what kind of music they can listen to, and the smart, rational, reasonable people of Oklahoma are never going to buy into that."

And that is where the original Chesterton quote fails.  There is no person without convictions.  We all think or believe in something, and act accordingly.  It seems more reasonable that indented quote above is evidence that the flip side of Chesterton's quote is more aptly suited towards current societal attitudes:  Intolerance is the virtue of the man with convictions. 

But, being considered intolerant isn't exactly a comfortable shoe to wear when one believes in something, right? 

Relax. It's okay.  There's a little asterisk by the term if you look close enough, which reads "only applies if a person thinks, believes, or acts in accordance with a [usually] monotheistic religion."  That's swell.

The quote above is from Wayne Coyne, the leader of one of my favorite rock bands, The Flaming Lips (who released one of my favorite all-time albums, "The Soft Bulletin," and staged the best concert I've ever seen/experienced.  And, trust me, a Lips concert is an experience.

This little flap came up over some legislators who opposed one of the Lips' songs from becoming the official State song of Oklahoma.  Why?  Because Coyne said a bad word in public, and a bandmate wore a T-shirt with the Soviet logo to their assembly.  Egad.

flaming lips photo

So why the hyper-judgmental rhetoric by Coyne?  I don't know, but it won't stop me from enjoying his music, which remains ever hopeful about people, life, and love. 

As a side note, at least the Governor overrode the Congressional decision not to adapt the Lips' song, which gathered 51% of an online poll against numerous other competitors.  It's nice to see an elected official do the right thing, even for something as trivial as this.

The video and lyrics, for those interested!

"Do You Realize" - The Flaming Lips

Do You Realize - that you have the most beautiful face
Do You Realize - we're floating in space -
Do You Realize - that happiness makes you cry
Do You Realize - that everyone you know someday will die
And instead of saying all of your goodbyes - let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It's hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn't go down
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round
Do You Realize - Oh - Oh - Oh
Do You Realize - that everyone you know
Someday will die -
And instead of saying all of your goodbyes - let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It's hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn't go down
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round
Do You Realize - that you have the most beautiful face
Do You Realize

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