I’ve asked before on this blog whether I’d change my past, warn my past self that I would change my mind about many things, and thus not to be dogmatic. Even though I never experienced a LOST-style temporal paradox, in a sense I did warn myself. Others who had passed that way offered advice, which I often failed to heed. And sooner or later we get to offer our later perspective to others, who are where we once were. And then we’re judged, and its painful, but it hopefully leads to repentance and a committment to doing something other than simply repeating the cycle as your life goes on. That doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes – it just means that you’ll try to make new ones rather than simply repeating the same ones over and over again.
In the most recent episode of LOST, as in other earlier ones, we saw the “smoke monster” make someone confront their past, with the aim of bringing about repentance and a change in them.
In my recent visits to Triablogue, it has been somewhat like encountering the smoke monster. I was met over there by views and attitudes that once would have been mine. As I try to extract myself from the attempt at interaction, unsubscribing from the comment updates and so on, I realize that in my late teens and probably into my early twenties, I would have loved to have had a blog like that (blogs didn’t exist yet), I would have treated visitors who disagreed with me in much the same way I was treated on Triablogue, and when the visiting scholar or whoever else it was left exasperated, I would have celebrated another “victory”.
I don’t just wonder how many of the bloggers over there will, a few decades from now, find themselves in my shoes, interacting with younger people who are much like their own former selves. I also wonder what views that I interact with now I may myself hold a few decades from now.
At any rate, I am grateful to the folks at Triablogue for giving me an experience akin to being grabbed by my past and told I had better listen to John Locke. I suppose the question is, what if anything have I learned from this, what can I learn from it? The two main things I’m taking away from this experience are these:
1) Don’t forget the way you got to where you are now. It was the reality of the way I saw Christians singing and talking about their experience and their faith that made a powerful impression on me. I don’t think that the impression would have been the same if they had seemed as arrogant as I became as a teenage convert, full of enthusiasm. As I look back now, I wonder how I could have missed this, how I could have thought as a young Christian that I know it all and ought to give a confident answer to every question and challenge I was presented with, never admitting “I don’t know”? It is important to remember the steps that led us on from various stages of immaturity to various points of increasing maturity, because – this leads on to the second point:
2) Our minds are not changed in single large leaps. It may seem that way at the time, but in fact it is accumulating evidence and considerations over a long time that eventually leads to the dramatic paradigm shift. Without that longer process, the paradigm will rarely shift. And yet we so often engage in conversations (or worse, arguments) expecting that if we can just make our point again, or bring in just one more piece of evidence, our conversation partner (or opponent) will be convinced. But that’s not how it works – unless you happen to be there for the paradigm-shift moment.