In praise of uncertainty

Amy Langstaff considers talking point culture.

In many cases, as Wallace suggests, our response to feeling confused and overwhelmed is to seek out the safety of stable positions — and, I would add, stable ways of stating those positions. We put on a carapace of freeze-dried arguments and talking points. We curl, woodlouse-like, into a posture that will protect us from the vulnerability of not knowing what to say next and the pain of sometimes not knowing how to defend the ideas (however inarticulate) that we love and even live by…

The temptation to shatter this rhetorical armour is strong not necessarily because it is urgent to defeat the other person in argument, but because it is galling to look into the face of another — a marvelous primate endowed with 100-billion neurons — to watch their mouth open, and to listen as a half-remembered editorial or some other unreconstructed bit of flotsam tumbles forth. It is an affront not only to oneself but to “the ongoing human interaction.”

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