I recently got coffee with a friend (“A”). He’s in his early twenties, wears a backwards baseball cap and a button up shirt. He sits down and we immediately discuss the election. “I keep reading that we’re living in a post-truth era,” he says. “Is that true? Are we?” he narrows his eyes. “What is truth?”
We talk for a good hour, sussing each other out. A is from Indiana, raised conservatively with self-described “racist, misogynist, and false” ideas about how the world worked. For example, one of the doctrines he learned at a young age was that colored people were descended from a race of people that God cursed for homosexuality.
“I’ve been having a series of epiphanies in the past years,” he says. “Ever since a kid, from reading everything, I started learning that many of the things my parents were teaching me didn’t make sense. And now I feel like I’m learning a bunch of new stuff and trying to contextualize it.”
“Some of my thoughts are just the beginning of thoughts,” he tells me as we both stare off into space, thinking about aliens, politics, philosophy, and people. A couple weeks before I asked him what he was interested in, what his passion was, and he told me “right now, I’m interested in the big ‘why?'”
We arrive at very few conclusions after our long and expansive talk about the world we can expect in the future: genetic modification, libraries, economics. Both of us agree that we need time to crunch on our thoughts.
What inspires me about A is his fearlessness to discuss things he does not know. I’ve always tried to make sure that I was always right, and it never worked. I find myself gravitating to people who gracefully explore the limits of their beliefs, and push themselves to the edge of thought where ideas become muddy and dark.
“Do you ever find yourself wondering if you’re incredibly smart or incredibly stupid?” asks A. I tell him yes. He continues, “I discussed with my girlfriend how we sometimes become proud of of humble we are, and then we notice the pride and become humble again, but then become proud again for doing so. And it’s just this continuous, recurring thing.”
This oscillation, I think, is something that I can relate to. Perhaps this constant questioning, and this cycle of challenging what is true, is one of the only solid things I can grasp.