by David D. Horowitz
During my youth I was impatient and temperamental. I remained this way until my late thirties. I changed because I learned through innumerable experiences how frequently wrong I was about people, places, politics, and about everything. Finally, I understood the world is complex. I need to pay attention to learn its true nature. I need to listen to other people to mature. These are easy sentiments to mimic but difficult to genuinely practice.
Oh, how wrong I was about so many people, including myself. I little suspected conservative friends of trying to manipulate me into being a hard-line right-winger or left-wing friends of trying to recruit me for their movements. I little suspected so many ostensibly religious people visit brothels or denounce gays and then have gay affairs or preach about the importance of families and cut off contact with a family member for twenty years because of one slight. I was naïve. I little suspected my own heart of duplicity with a close friend over an attractive woman. I was wrong about myself. I little suspected how angry I still was about being bullied in junior high school and how this could inflame prejudice and hatred. Slowly, very slowly, I began to change.
And, finally, in my mid-to-late thirties, I developed a radical idea: I didn’t know as much about the world as I thought I did. I was essentially ignorant, and I needed to pay closer attention and for much longer. I needed to ask more questions of both myself and others before reaching even tentative conclusions. I already had a tolerant, inquisitive streak, but I was still too prone to tantrums, blaming, presumption. Very rarely do I now lose my temper. I know I could be wrong, rather than that person and this person or “those idiots over there.”
Blame is easy—an easy way to avoid not only responsibility for one’s own actions, but responsibility to continuously inquire. Patience—solid, careful, prudent patience—is key, and it is tortoise-slow in arriving. But it arrives as a natural consequence of humility, and humility for me arose because I was so flat-out wrong about so much. My background in philosophy helped me integrate this insight into my worldview, and my background in poetry helped me use language to explore and discover. I articulated my own philosophy based on reverence for consideration and vitality. I articulated my own aesthetic combining rhymed metrics and contemporary diction. The metaphysical structure I’d lived in might have collapsed, but individual blocks and bricks could be salvaged to build a new and better “house.”
And I’m still living in that new and better house. I am humbler, more patient, and happier. I make decisions, but I realize they are tentative and subject to tests from continually accruing new data. I mistrust but rarely hate. I am wary but not unaccepting. I have some sense for what is traditionally called “the golden mean.” Yes: balance. Sometimes we go to extremes to rediscover balance. And when we do, we can take comfort in realizing almost every mature person around us has shared in that paradigm, has made numerous mistakes and trusted the wrong folks and bumbled and been deluded—and ultimately emerged improved and strengthened. Perhaps now I am less ignorant.