Winning…

Head is still sore. Nearly collapsed at work yesterday. Wouldn’t be the first time. I have collapsed at work before but kept going because no-one saw me.

With the headaches there’s a standard type of conversation. Person expresses sympathy, empathy or astonishment at what I go through. Person then offers suggestion for potential remedy of my problem. They don’t need my input for that part. Have you tried this tablet, alternative remedy or random intervention? I respond by listing everything that I have tried on and off during the seven or so years of this. How this is probably a form of migraine which is more to do with my genetic brain chemistry rather than any mere tension headache or stress. And with the best will in the world some person will recommend something that a cousin, in-law or completely random acquaintance tried once that worked for them. I’ll smile and respond with: “We’ll see” My poor, beloved, long suffering mother has pointed out my father uses this same phrase. It means no.

I was first introduced to the concept of evidence-based medicine in my first year of college which was slightly less than seven years ago. In it I realised it contained the seeds for a radical altering of my life trajectory. Two things struck me upon encountering the basics of this concept. Firstly, how this idea that interventions in the world, medical or otherwise, should have a sound evidential basis had to be taught to people at all. That we had to actually make a case investing massive resources to convince people that the things we do in life should have a theoretical and scientific rationale behind them. So much of medicine for so long had been based on tradition and outdated practices. People died completely unnecessarily because of this. People die today unnecessarily because of this. This was mind blowing to me. What’s also mind blowing to me is how so much of this stuff persists to this day in the form of homeopathy or the current fashion for herbal medicine. We’ve tested all the herbs over the years. The stuff that works became medicine…

The second thing that struck me wasn’t like a lightening bolt. It was more a still, small voice in the back of my head that said: “Well, what about the evidence for God?” And in a very real sense I am where I am today because of that. Questions and doubts linger. The meaning of evidence for one. There are generally two kinds of evidence. Qualitative and Quantitative. People required different kinds of evidence. I’m not sure what I require any more. A person’s story. Their experience of faith, spirituality and matters beyond our world can convince that person but the rest of us require more evidence. It’s why we don’t believe the people who say there were abducted by aliens.

There’s a phrase I heard one of the top people at my employer use, “We need evidence based operations as much as we need evidence based policies.” I’m big on having proof. People come to me with an idea. I ask them to send it to me in writing. 90% of people won’t do that which is proof they weren’t interested or committed enough to the idea to make it work. The delicious irony hasn’t been lost on me with regard to what I currently, albeit with the last few threads close to breaking, believe about God.

It’s hard to get past the experience of your own life. I always err on the side of winning the relationship rather than winning the argument. I’m not sure why I do. I can’t say it’s worked as a policy. I don’t have any positive cases for it but more how when I’ve sought to win the argument I’ve normally lost or damaged the relationship. Maybe that says something about the quality of my relationships. When I’m at a place where I’m afraid, to be 100% honest, that by arguing or pushing my point I will end a relationship my relationships aren’t that strong. It harks back to my debating days in school. I was known for going all out in a speech. Relentlessly taking apart an opponent’s argument. It’s not a fun thing to go through for a lot of people. Particularly when you point out logical fallacies and flaws. It’s tough on people who are even seasoned debaters because no-one likes to be taken apart like that. Often the distinction can be lost between a person and a person’s arguments in those circumstances.

I see it in discussions between people all the time. Appeal to ignorance. Appeal to populism. Appeal to tradition or authority. Attacking the person rather than the argument. Constructing a strawman. Interrupting the speaker so they can’t finish what they were saying. Gray fallacy. I suppose the question is who judges when a debate is settled? Who decides who has won the argument?

Right now a friend is giving me some tough love on not pursuing every option, including alternative therapies, with regard to finding a solution to my headaches. The trouble is that in my own head I find no compelling reason to change my view that they are ineffective at best or dangerous at worst. I know exactly the motivations for the tough love though. I wish more people would follow that approach with me. Wanting the best for you is a trait to be commended in friendships. Wanting the best for you so much that you end up constantly annoyed by it might be a feature of marriage but I’ll let you know should I ever enter the institution :-) I insist on honesty in my relationships. It’s funny how many people have agreed to that and then ended it by saying, ‘It’s time I was honest with you…’ Sometimes I want to engage on an issue. I want them to look at my arguments and opinions. Either I’m wrong or my arguments become better and more refined. Either way I win but when it comes to friendships I too often lose…

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