The successive approximation of truth.

I don’t make a lot of claims to wisdom from my early years. One of the useful, if painful, advantages of keeping journals is that it shows you exactly how dumb you were when you were younger. I did get a lot of things right, I note happily. I got on the side of LGBT rights when gay acceptance, let alone gay marriage, was a controversial idea.

But this wasn’t because I had any particular wisdom or grace. It was because I was a child of the Internet generation, and I could pretty trivially do the research, read people’s writings, and come to the conclusion “Gee, it sounds like gay people are pretty much identical to straight people except for sexually attraction.”

I was dumb, yes. But I was aware, at least theoretically, of by own dumbness. I knew even as a teenager that to pretend to know everything would, eventually, stop me from actually knowing anything. And so, at every stage of my life, I formed my beliefs while considering the possibility that some of the base assumptions were incomplete or misleading. (Not wrong, because you can’t really do much if you try to hold contradictory assumptions in your head, but you can be always alert for alternate hypotheses that might explain what you’re seeing better.)

It apparently helped. I’ve changed my mind on a few core positions and important issues in the intervening years, but I feel like I’ve always been getting closer to truth. I haven’t had to disregard large swathes of evidence or experience that persuaded me of things earlier in life, I’ve just had other experiences that have granted me a broader perspective and let me contextualize those experiences differently. I feel like I’ve got a good handle on Stuff these days. But I know that I can only keep this handle as long as I don’t rely on it, and keep looking at both the world, and my assumptions about it.


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