Sunday, 3 April 2016

Who needs fresh air!

This weekend I didn't leave the flat at all. I didn't get any fresh air and honestly, I liked it. However it got me thinking about all of the times when I was told when I was younger to go and play outside. I always disliked this, it seemed to me as though the arguments in favour of it were rather strange and inconsistent. I am not sure that the air outside was actually any fresher, in fact considering the area of London I grew up in it may have been less so.

I looked back upon this argument, still sitting untouched and unuttered in my brain, and I had a realisation. I think my young self was right. There are more genuine arguments for being outside, getting vitamin D or getting some exercise, but those are both things I can get if I walk on a treadmill next to a window. The problem is that I could poke holes in all of these arguments and make perfectly good ones of my own about why I shouldn't go outside. Once that is done, as far as I am concerned, I win and even if (as I child) I am forced to comply, I still know that I was in the right. This then is my realisation, that I think there is an impulse which many people have, to argue against what they are told and to try to prove the teller wrong. I am built in this way certainly. Now though, I think that it may be the case that this impulse is flawed.

Going back to the argument about going outside. Perhaps every reason I was given was wrong, but that doesn't mean that it is wrong. Perhaps there is a kind of aerie freedom which being outside offers us which being inside does not, a way that having no ceiling above me might lift certain thoughts from my mind. In a less poetic direction, there is the beginnings of another argument in the fact that there are agoraphobics, but there is no equivalent (that I am aware of) who fears the inside. This suggests that the outside is fearful and in turn this implicates the outside as a place of possibility and uncertainty. We all need those things, even those of us who fear them. At this point I am throwing arguments around just for the sake of making them, a lazy exercise in proving my own 13 year old self wrong, but there's a larger point here.

I think there is a phenomena not often talked about whereby smart (or even not smart) people talk themselves into certain ways of thinking. I have talked before about how I like to force myself to take upon the beliefs of people I disagree with, to see what things would look like from their perspective. However I think that this is a problem which tends to hit closer to home. If disagreeing with a Christian is looking at a different landmass and saying it is wrong. I think this type of internal argument is looking down at your intellectual feet and saying “wherever I'm standing is correct” and only then finding justification.

This is a tough area to think about. It is thinking about thinking (and perhaps even strays into thinking about thinking about thinking) and applying this from day to day requires a strange introspection which isn't always useful. However what I will say is that, although I'm not sure I will go outside next weekend, I will certainly not look down on those who do. Even when the reason they give is that they need the fresh air, perhaps their real reason is something much deeper and more profound.

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