Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Compulsive one-upmanship - A conversation...

There is nothing much one can do with people who are compulsively argumentative. These are those half baked intellectuals, who have dipped their finger superficially into different caskets of knowledge, with a few catch phrases culled from their readings; holding on to their train of thought and deliberation with a tenacity worthy of a Cicero (Except that in sounds awfully hollow); feigning wisdom on supposedly every conceivable topic that could come up for discussion; consider it beneath their dignity to acknowledge ignorance; unwilling to hold a reasonable dialogue on a topic but insist on throwing names and praises in favor of themselves - that it becomes so very difficult for others to stay beyond a few minutes in the same room with them. Either, one need to raise ourselves to that level of superficiality or utterly keep quiet and let the other spend their energy, and pray that a more reasonable balance be achieved quickly enough.
We are four regular members at the local sauna; in the sense, that almost every weekend, if we happen to be in town, we assemble there almost at the same time. And there is a unwritten code that we follow among us - and that is - beyond a few cursory exchanges and observations of topical interest , which at the most lasts for not more than five minutes; we stay quiet, immersed in our own contemplation, enjoying the sweltering heat that slowly creeps over us. And after twenty minutes, we politely bid ourselves good bye. However, We have met outside the health club several times, for lunch or dinner; and that is when we launch into discussions and ratiocinations. One of them is a Professor of philosophy; the other is a developer with a local software company; and one more - a young lad who is pursuing his engineering in Georgia Tech. Fortunately, all four of us have deep interests outside the line of our work, and I can recall some wonderful moments of delightful conversation that we have had over the last year or so. Never intrusive, always willing to listen to each other; thinking an idea through to its logical conclusion no matter where it would lead us. More importantly, not afraid to be ignorant and willing to learn..
The Gym is the place people unwind themselves; and this process of unwinding takes several forms. The person in question, keeping whom in mind, I began this narrative is a great guy. At nearly sixty years, he is in pink of health and shape. But he suffers from this incorrigible need to be right all the time. There are several like him that I know . As he walked into the sauna today, he started talking about the movie "A theory of everything", a film based on Stephen Hawking. I politely told him that I saw the film recently as well and I found the ideas of Hawking captured quite authentically. That trigger was enough. He started on a tirade of Hawking's supposed atheism, his opposition to the theory of Richard Dawkin's "blind watchmaker", his reluctance to acknowledge God and how religion is much more than science can conceive of; and how Hawkins is merely riding a sympathy wave and really has no foundations for his theory and so on. For twenty minutes, the four of us merely listened as mute spectators, looking at each other through the corner of our eyes, resolved to keep quiet and allow the storm to pass away. But today, there seemed no signs of abatement. I had reacted the end of my tether (probably the Sauna was wee bit hotter today than normal) and hastily intervened :
"John (name changed) : Have you actually read "The brief History of time" . Because, if you did, you will realize that Hawking is as "God intoxicated" as Einstein or Spinoza. Although He what is calls God is nature or Universe. Keep this as your reference point and your understanding of Hawking will undergo a radical revision...."
His face abruptly changed, and he grew more serious. and this is what he had to say " No, I read reviews and summaries of this book, and all of them call him an atheist.."
"that's the problem with most of them John. I think one should not be discussing somebody else idea if it is not read in its original form. It is very easy to slip into intellectual snobbism with that kind of half baked knowledge.. Read the book and then let us discuss Hawking's position on God, or if you cant do that then lets that talk about your original thoughts on it. That would be a fair and reasonable dialogue...
I could see my friends gently shaking their heads with a subtle smile on their faces..
I dint want to hurt John , so I jumped in" Hey John, did you see formula one today....?"
And in that instant, he was on again and was warming for a long diatribe on the rules of racing.. I was happy though, that I left him in good cheer, basking in his own glory and intellectual one-upmanship.
God bless...

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