Wednesday, 22 August 2012

On not believing yourself

So the other day I was walking near my apartment building with my girl-friend.  There’s a block beside it which has no sidewalk; there’s grass instead.  My girl-friend walked on the grass.  I walked on the street.

When she asked me why I didn’t walk on the grass, I said, “Well, it gets wet here a lot, and who wants to walk on wet grass?”

But lately it’s been hot and dry, the grass is dry, and one day when I was walking home and came to the grassy boulevard, I thought, “Well, it won’t be wet today, so I guess it will be okay to walk on it.”

But it wasn’t okay to walk on it.  It was all bumpy and uneven.  I had to look down to make sure I didn’t twist an ankle or something.

So now I know why I really don’t walk on that grassy boulevard, or maybe any plot of grass.  It has nothing to do with wet or dry, and yet for a while I believed that was why I avoided the grass.

Not for a long while, only from the time I first produced the pseudo-explanation until the day, a week or so later, when I decided to act on it.  How very odd, really.  First of all to come up with a phony explanation.  I suppose there’s lots of things we do without understanding why, and when someone presses us, do we just blurt out the first thing that comes into our heads?  Where did I even get the idea that it was wetness I was avoiding?

In a way it was a very skilled response.  It drew on my knowledge of Vancouver weather and the fact that it can be unpleasant to walk in the wet.  A logical response, you might call it, and the trouble with logic is that it often has nothing to do with reality.  I took a philosophy course once; maybe this is one of those valid but unsound arguments: I don’t like getting my feet wet, walking on the grass may make my feet wet, therefore the reason I don’t walk on the grass is to avoid getting my feet wet.

Actually, that’s not even logical.  The premises don’t hold together.  Let’s just call it a rational-sounding response.

Anyway, the really astounding thing is that, having come up with the rational-sounding explanation, I even thought it was true and tried to act on it.  It’s one thing to come up with a consciously phony reason to fool someone else, but here I was fooling myself.  Or my rational side was fooling my sensible side.

Ah, well, I suppose this is what they call believing your own propaganda.

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