"You have no core beliefs?" she asked.
"Sure. A short list, as vague as I can make it, not written down anywhere. Let's see. Kind is better than cruel--I'm sure of that. Loose is better than rigid. Love is better than indifference. So is hate. Laughing is the best. Not laughing will kill you. Alone is okay. Not alone is way better. That's about it...and in my life so far there's not been a single one of them that's always been true."
--Spider Robinson, "Very Bad Deaths"
I mean, I still am, but I used to be, too. My strangeness has...evolved somewhat over time, is all.
Very little of me survives from my teenage years. A few things have come back after disappearing for a while--I was tight-assed with money back then, went through my twenties bleeding money from every pore, and have regained fiscal sanity, for instance--but much of what made me me is irretrievably gone, and good riddance.
Let's see. I used to be a homophobe. I used to be prissy to the point of immediately and greatly distancing myself from people who did drugs, even if they never did drugs around me. Tattoos were for criminals. My politics were conservative, if not always Conservative. And anyone who thought different from me wasn't just suspect, he was obviously and patently guilty. Changing my mind was improbable, nearly impossible.
Now? I'm as committed a straight ally as you'll find. I know and love many people who do drugs, and don't hold it against them any more than they hold my near-total temperance against me. Nothing so much against the drugs themselves, either: it's just that both intoxicants I have tried had the effect of removing my sense of self control. I did not find that sensation pleasurable. Many do, and that's okay.
I have two tattoos and haven't ruled out getting more. My politics are liberal and getting liberaller and liberaller the older I get. And everybody thinks different from me or they'd be me and not them. I'm a husband: I'm therefore habitually wrong and MUST change my mind, frequently.
My stepdad used to level more than a few criticisms at me, most of them entirely justified. The two most common were contradictory, but both true to seven decimal places. I was a rigid black-and-white thinker; I didn't stand for anything.
Confusing? Only until you understand that the one thing I did stand for, absolutely and unequivocally, was non-confrontation. And that, friends and neighbours, hasn't changed.
There are people who seem to relish confrontation. One of them is running for President of the United States as I write this. I distrust such people, even as I understand their façade: for most people,
bellowing and bullying is simply an attempt to mask insecurity. For a select few--around one percent of the population--this is not the case. Such people are called sociopaths, and they scare the ever-loving shit out of me.
I hate confrontation. Hate is actually far too gentle a word for how I feel about it. Most anger is so...pointless. It's an ego defence for people who have too much invested in their ego. And it hurts. It hurts a lot. Scream at me and I'll want to clap my hands over my ears, not to block out the noise but to try to block out the pain.
It took me a long time before I came to realize that my perception of negative emotions is somewhat unique. Most people, I am given to understand, don't feel other people's negative emotions quite the way I do.
How to explain it? I float my boat on an ocean of emotion. If that ocean becomes turbulent, I get seasick. The seasickness takes different forms depending on the nature of the storm. Being around intense mental pain makes me want to vomit, while anger and fear (which are closely related) cause diarrhea. My own emotions contribute--they're akin to my rocking my boat. Which is why I expend a great deal of effort trying to remain calm, and avoiding confrontation if it can be at all avoided. In an argument, I will try my damnedest to simply state my views as calmly as I can, and concede (publicly) to others if that tactic fails (it usually does).
Now, there is an odd effect to all this. If you absolutely force me into a confrontation I will hate you for it, and that compounded hatred (of you and of the situation) is a more potent force than you'd ever expect to come out of the likes of me. It causes people to back off, fast. It causes me to become violently ill shortly thereafter, but people don't usually see that.
I'm not sure I could ever strike, much less kill, another human being. Only in defence of someone I love would I do such a thing, and yes, the hatred of being put into such a position would compound and explode in predictably unpredictable ways. But I imagine I'm far more likely to die than kill, defending someone I love. I have had many dreams in which that happens: the person I'm dying for is often different. Usually I'm shot; occasionally I'm knifed.
Now you know why I strive so mightily for inner calm. It's entirely selfish: there's enough turbulence around me without my adding to it.
Because of all this, I believe that cruelty begets cruelty, that "war never determines who's right, only who's left".
I believe that it is normal to love many people at once; that loving one person does not diminish love for another. To me this is self-evident, not just from my own experience but from reality I have observed over decades. Most people believe otherwise. I'll never understand why--it's like saying that 2 plus 2 is only 2.2--but so long as they are happy, it's not my place to question them.
I believe that everyone is the heroine of her own story, and further, that her story is unknowable to most of the world. Nobody sets out to be evil: all the evil in the world can be chalked up to selfishness and shortsightedness and narrow perspectives. Even those sociopaths simply do what pleases them, without a care in the world for anyone else. We've all been guilty of that on occasion; they just do it by inclination.
I believe there's something that persists after death. I have no idea what it might be and I don't believe you do either.
As far as core beliefs go, that's about it..and in my life so far there's never been a single one of them that's always been true.
Confrontation, as awful as I find it, is sometimes inevitable and even desirable, right on up into war, which should only be engaged in to stop a greater horror. (What is a greater horror? Ah, therein lies the rub.) Some people really don't understand consequence, not out of malice, but because they haven't been adequately taught about it. Some people certainly act as if their love is limited, and that's okay. There may well be nothing after we die but dust: I can't know that either and (well, sorry) neither can you...at least for now.
There is one thing I don't just believe, I am certain of: my way is not a better way; my way is merely another way.