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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Forest Girl and Tree Boy: On Irritants and Arguments

Everyone who knows me knows that I am a lovely, peaceful, and apparently non-opinionated person. I am disinclined to argue. If someone says something that I disagree with I usually just let it slide. Occasionally I will ask a few clarifying questions to be sure they mean something similar to what I think they mean. But in general I don't argue. I don't expect or need other people to agree with me.

Of course, as with everything else, there are exceptions.

Tree Boy is one of these exceptions. It's not that I want him to agree with me, it's more that for some reason Tree Boy brings out the worst in me. When Tree Boy and I have a discussion I always feel a very strong urge to argue. It doesn't matter whether I agree with what I am arguing for or not.

I think maybe I have this reaction because Tree Boy has such strong opinions. Tree Boy knows he is right until proven wrong. And a proof of Tree Boy being wrong has to be through unassailable facts, collected from a source he approves of in an appropriately scientific manner. Who has time to do that?

As you can imagine all of this irritates me no end. And I guess this irritation brings out the Devils Advocate in me.

When it comes down to it I think that Tree Boy and I would probably agree on a lot of things, but the problem is that we have completely different frames of reference and completely different ways of arriving at an opinion. For example, I don't expect everyone to see sense and agree with me. In fact I can quite easily see why other people think the things they do. I think maybe Tree Boy doesn't understand why people don't agree with him. I try and explain, and argue from the other point of view. But that doesn't seem to help. Perhaps I confuse him, by completely switching tack. I suppose arguing with him immediately after agreeing with him about the exact same topic might be confusing and annoying.

My side of the conversation often follows these lines:
Yes. I agree with you.
Other people don't? How stupid of them.
Maybe they think of it this way ...
That's right, it doesn't make sense. Why do you expect people to make sense?

Sometimes I wonder why we bother with our little discussions. I suspect I irritate him as much as he irritates me, and I often come out of them exhausted and frustrated. We never seem to make any progress.

However, after think about it, I am grateful for our disagreements. Tree Boy forces me to think more rigorously and about topics I would never even consider otherwise. Our discussions have probably influenced my thinking more than I like to admit.

So, thank you Tree Boy. I hope that you also get something out of our discussions. And even if you don't, just think, when I am Queen of the World or Goddess of the Forest (I haven't decided which yet) you can take comfort in the knowledge that you had a part in shaping my thoughts and opinions.

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