Some Thoughts On Me

I discovered that the quote I offered from Saad did not for whatever reason carry over into what I wrote so I reprint it now so that when I start and make reference to it you know what I’m talking about. Sorry about that.

“My love of freedom became apparent as a young child being dragged to a synagogue in Beirut, Lebanon,. I found the rote prayers and herd-like rituals very alienating. My inquisitive nature felt stifled by religious dogma. I found no freedom in religious practice. You simply belonged to the group and mimicked their behaviors. I suspect that many children find religious services unappealing, but I had a more visceral repulsion. My strong individuality, even at such a young age, rebelled at the pressure to conform, and I was delighted to have been the only one of four children in my family never to attend Jewish school.   . .  My friendships and romantic interests have spanned races, ethnicities, and religions, and I am richer for it Fast forward to my teenage years when I developed into a very competitive soccer player.”

The above quote is from Gad Saad in his new book, The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas Are Killing Common Sense. I made a copy of these words because in some sense they define me. The sense that they are not a reflection of me is in his extreme rebellion that went much further than I did and thinking back on my life I would never take it to the depth he goes. But we are, it would appear, likeminded and for me that’s fascinating. Fascinating because I have some fundamental differences with Saad, particularly in his evolutionary psychology, though even here I’ve learned much I appreciate.

This phrase he uses, “my inquisitive nature” was very much my nature though I didn’t understand that until I was a young adult. I was different, and acted out differently, and sometimes costly to me, but found myself unable to act otherwise. And, of course, I was always wrong because I bumped up against authority quite regularly. I don’t recall mom or dad ever saying derogatory things about me though I know I frustrated them, and they didn’t fully understand me. Why would they, I didn’t understand myself. So in a way they were my safe place where with other figures of authority, like my schoolteachers would shut me off from my questions with “just do it the way it’s always been done and shut up!”

I suppose it helped that I went to a Baptist church and not a liturgical one, though even that wouldn’t be as scripted as a Jewish Synagogue. I can feel Saad’s rebellion with the “rote prayers and herd-like rituals” he found alienating. I’ve been in liturgical churches with their rote recitations and watched the parishioners repeat out of boredom what was once very deeply held, and for some still are, but for most it’s just perfunctory repetition because that’s the way it’s done. When Saad says he had a more “visceral repulsion” it sounds like he never found the very personal meaning such recitations can have.

This sentence from Saad is all me: “My strong individuality, even at such a young age, rebelled at the pressure to conform.” This was me and it hasn’t changed even in my older age. I’ve been in church services when the leader said, “Okay, everyone raise their hands, or do this or do that,” and I instantly rebel and don’t do what is commanded. No one is going to tell me what to do. I’ll do something if I feel like doing it or I personally see a good reason to do it, not because someone told me to do it. Yes, I was in the Army and I controlled most of my rebellion and when I didn’t it cost me, like the time my sergeant demanded we all contribute to some organization and he wanted to look good to the brass by having a 100% compliance from his troops and I wouldn’t contribute, stood my ground and found myself literally cleaning the latrine (bathroom) with a toothbrush. Who won? Me or the sergeant? We both did; me because I didn’t contribute and he because he got the satisfaction of punishing me. Even though I was in the best unit ever I didn’t go beyond one enlistment. I had to have my freedom. Well, there’s a lot of false illusion to that but that’s another story.

I didn’t get to a cosmopolitan life in the same way Saad did with various and different ethnic girlfriends and friends, but I got there, nonetheless. For me it began with my parents who were openminded accepting anyone and everyone no matter their color of skin or race or whatever you want to call our difference, nor were they elitist (I mean it’s hard to be elitist when you’re basically poor) and all their life helped those others rejected. While they were grounded in their beliefs, they were quick to make changes when they found better reasons to believe something different and I grew up with the same openness to people and ideas that didn’t fit neatly into mine. When I went into philosophy studies, I didn’t stay with the traditional Greek European philosophical tradition but researched other philosophies, particularly Eastern thinking and though different from Greek linear thinking I came to appreciate it and adapt some of what we might call Eastern thought into my own. In this way I had as broad as possible an understanding of truth from various traditions and thought patterns and when I concluded one way or the other it was through reasoned search; I chose the best ideas. This came straight out of my inquisitiveness and freedom I demanded.

And no, I was never athletic like Saad, though the Army unit I ended up in demanded a physicalness beyond the ordinary. And I don’t really think myself as intellectual as Saad, but I hold my own and it comes out of my inquisitiveness not some innate intelligence I have. We do have fundamental disagreements, but I think we agree more than we disagree, and I’ve learned from him things I wouldn’t have if I had never read him.