passionately uninterested

So one of the last students I conferenced with today, Blake – as he was packing up to go, asked me what topics other students were doing (for their second paper, an argumentative research paper). When I mentioned that Ken is doing something on Islam, he said that he’d like to have researched something on religion because, as he said, “I grew up in the church, and I’m curious about a lot of it.” I remember half thinking, “Oh, that’s refreshing: someone who grew up in the church but whose reaction is one of interest, not dogmatism or atheism.”

Then, as I was walking home, I was thinking about some members of my family who are pretty rabidly political, passionate about a few issues and/or candidates but who are not interested in politics per se.

Now, of course, that combination (passionate about an issue, not about politics) is not surprising, I know, since politics is a means to an end, and only some people are interesting in the means (politics) itself. They want to use politics for other ends and that is really exactly what “politics” means – a means to an end.

But still… it occurred to me how there are people who are opinionated – about religion or about politics — but are not much interested in or curious about it. They don’t soften their surety with curiosity, the kind of curiosity that could lend some intellectual humility to the surety (I guess is what I mean).

But again, especially with politics, how can I expect differently? Most people who are passionate about political and social issues are not going to take up the study of political science [though don’t get me on that topic – cuz I think that field should be called “political art,” as there is no science to politics – it’s just that academics want to be scientists – gives ‘em more perceived credibility].

Anyway! I think I’m still saying that there is this difference: in one case, the passion is the controlling factor; in the other, the interest is the controlling (or at least the temperizing?) factor. And I find this little line of thinking interesting.

The opinionated person shows a lot of passion about and energy toward the topic, the issue (by dint of her strong opinions). And passion is usually a good thing, a thing that, one would think, ought to translate to curiosity. But it doesn’t always seem to. But one would think it would. I mean, how can one care so much about something and not be also interested in it? And if one is interested in something, how can one also not be at least slightly humble about it?

I mean, think about it: Love of something would doubtlessly lead to curiosity about it, right? And curiosity about something would doubtlessly lead to some humility about it (because one’s curiosity continually checks one’s surety, one’s conclusions – one is always wondering if maybe the conclusion isn’t the full story, for example). But this opinionated passion comes without accompanying curiosity sometimes for some reason. Well, sometimes people care, though, more about controlling a thing rather than being interested in it. Obviously.

Maybe that phenomenon is a kind of breakdown of our whole selves. I mean, we are emotional and intellectual [and spiritual] beings, and when those two temper (and inspire) each other, aren’t we more healthy? Isn’t society, isn’t community more healthy? And when one runs wild without the other, aren’t we weakened and less human?

Oooh, that’s a insightful-sounding way to conclude! ;) But seriously, I think it’s true.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m noticing just how morally healthy is intellectual curiosity. Or maybe! Maybe, like my response to arguments like “gays shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children,” [see my previous post] I’m just being subversive and hiding under intellectuality, when really I need to just be more passionate about things.

Or not. But one thing’s for sure. Sometimes I think too much. ;)


2 thoughts on “passionately uninterested

  1. I didn’t actually follow all of what you were saying here, but I have been thinking lately that with regard to myself, I let myself stay too curious and too unsure, and that maybe I should let myself be fully opinionated about something so that I would feel more grounded and have a better sense of self. So that surety I think has some important functioning, even though it also hinders analytical thinking or openmindedness… Without it about some things we’d all be pretty disoriented. We’d have to admit how unstable life is when most of us have a pretty strong emotional need for stability.

  2. True thoughts, Chanel. I mean, I can tell you do know pretty much exactly what I was talking about — at least in spirit, if not in word — probably because we’re so alike personality wise. :)

    It’s all a trick of finding the balance between curiosity and conviction, between open-mindedness and action. I find that hard. It IS hard.

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