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OPINION | GARY SMITH: What’s so wrong with having strong opinions, loosely held?

Capacity to be persuaded isn’t a flaw by Gary Smith | April 21, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.

I've been led to believe a clear sign of intelligence is the ability to hold two competing ideas in your head at the same time.

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the concept of "competing ideas" is, basically, ideas on the same subject that compete with each other. Like, higher taxes and more services versus lower taxes and more money for people to determine and buy the things they need on their own.

What I'm pretty sure isn't meant by that is what typically goes on in my head, which is a collection of random thoughts all bouncing off each other like a bunch of caffeinated toddlers on a trampoline.

That is for illustration purposes only. At no point do I suggest caffeinating toddlers and putting them on a trampoline. But you've got to admit it's an interesting mental picture. Kind of one of those "seemed like a fun idea until you did it" things.

So my thought patterns (or lack thereof) likely aren't what was being referenced with the "competing ideas at the same time as a sign of intelligence" deal. Which anyone who knows me – say, someone who happens to be married to me – would certainly be able to tell you.

But I can think of at least one case where I've determined I do actually have a pretty firm grasp on competing thoughts. I am becoming increasingly less and more tolerant.

OK, the trick here is that "tolerance" is one of those words that has more than one meaning. In this particular case, my conflict can best be described as what I can take compared to what I'm willing to put up with. And those two things are heading in decidedly opposite directions for me.

Let's take "tolerance as what I can take." Frankly, I can't. At least not as much as I used do.

For example, recent events have demonstrated to me that I just can't take medications the way I used to. Nothing serious, but I have come to understand that "potential side effects" are more of a reality for me.

It may always have been the case, but because I am easily the most un-self-aware person you'll ever meet ("wonder where that blood is coming from...oh, my head!"), it's possible that, since I didn't know I needed them or even actually took them, I also didn't realize there might be negative impacts to medicine.

This extends on. For instance, in college and on into my 20s, my consumption of food and alcohol was both excessive in general and average for the company I kept. Which is not a dichotomy if you've ever been in college. Or, frankly, in your 20s.

Now I just can't do the things I used to do. Which is both tragic and probably a good idea, since likely I shouldn't have been doing them in the first place. But that's another random thought for another time. Don't worry, it's bouncing around in there somewhere.

I am finding, however, that I am willing to put up with a lot more stuff. I just don't get as mad as I used to. Which may or may not be a good thing, but is also not something I'm going to fight about, so, there. You'll have to take your confrontational rage elsewhere.

Now this is not a remarkable departure for me. I've long believed in the concept of strong opinions loosely held. I know what I believe, but I'm willing to be persuaded. It's just that there seem to be so many people with so many ... thoughts ... on so many things that have so little to do with their own experiences, that I can't play along anymore.

It's likely a function of my ever-increasing age. I can only eat two tacos at a time, and I don't care about your pronouns, partner or proclivities. Whatever makes you happy works for me and whatever you want to be called is fine with me. Pass the hot sauce. Mild, if you will, because I can't eat spicy food anymore.

Again, I do not know if this is a good thing. I mean, change is seldom driven by those who don't really care all that much. And there are still some hills upon which I'm willing to die. It just seems people these days have a LOT of hills and I'm down to just one or two.

Here's one: turn signals. More of a law and not a suggestion. Yeah, I'm pretty firm on that.

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