I’m starting to see in my life that I need to engage with those things that evoke a strong negative emotion in me. If I don’t like it, I need to do it, talk about it, read about it or, at the very least, think about it.
The example that has brought this home to me is that of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. For over a decade, I’ve been opposed to the idea of reading his books. This comes from hearing about “The God Delusion”, a book he wrote that I’ve never read, but which rubbed me the wrong way simply because the title told me it would contradict my own beliefs at the time.
Every time I’ve heard or read or thought the name Richard Dawkins since, I’ve had a mild negative emotional reaction to it – mostly a little bit of dismissive anger and incredulity. This has gone on for years.
On the face of it, this seems a little ridiculous. I’m effectively in conflict with a person who lives on the other side of the world who I’ve never met and who probably wouldn’t give me a second thought if he even knew I existed.
But of course, my beef is not with Richard Dawkins himself. It’s with the idea of him that I’ve created in my brain on the basis of virtually zero information.
The solution is an obvious one. I need to read his books. And so I’ve begun with “River out of Eden”. I’m listening to the audiobook, mostly because I never seem to have time to actually read but I spend about 2 hours in my car every day, so audiobooks make a great deal of sense for me.
So far it’s interesting. I’m about half an hour in and quite enjoying it. The fact that Dawkins himself voices part of the audiobook is helpful in this regard. It’s like he’s speaking to me directly.
I don’t know if I will come out of this experience a Dawkins fan. I don’t really care. What I want, though, is to replace my one-sided negative impression with a balanced view. Currently he exists in my head as a God-hating, arrogant caricature, which is doubtless an unfair representation of anyone. (I should point out here that I’m not even sure there is a God, so it seems bizarre to despise someone else for being anti something I’m not sure exists.)
Real life is always more complex than impressions suggest, and so I’d like to replace my impression with something real, whatever that might be. I feel like this is something I need to do in many areas of my life.
Perhaps I’ll see if Donald Trump has written anything next.