Monthly Archives: March 2010

So Here It Is, “It Is What It is”

So here I am sitting in a chair at the mall while my wife and daughters are looking at wedding dresses when I can’t help but overhear an elderly couple across from me debating some issue which in the grand scheme of life, was probably insignificant. “You’re missing my point” he argued. “You’re wrong” he further exclaimed.

Not to be outdone she fired back “No, you’re just not listening to what I am saying” she continued on with “If you just be quiet for a minute, you will see that I am right”

As I listened to them I began to chuckle watching how animated each of them were becoming as they tried so hard to forge their argument. Each was convinced that they were right and that the other was wrong. While it was cute for a while, it became a little sad that neither was giving in and they were both getting extremely upset with each other.

I started thinking and wondering if it is fundamental human nature that for us to be right, someone else has to be wrong. Is that really true? Have we become as a society, that judgmental?

The question drove me to do some research (okay I Googled it) and I found that everywhere I looked the difference between right and wrong was based on some sense of morality. But is it really, because I’m not necessarily sure I agree. Isn’t morality in a sense, a form of judgment?

Couldn’t right and wrong be simply defined as a matter of ones perspective or experiences that drive their specific viewpoint? Could it be that an opinion is just that, an opinion not necessarily based on any absolute truth or fact, thus making it neither right nor wrong?

Let’s look at it this way. Say you are enjoying a great movie on the couch in your living room with your significant other when all of a sudden they proclaim “I am freezing in here; I’ve got two blankets on me”. Your immediate reaction is “Are you nuts, I’ve got a tee-shirt and shorts on and I am as hot as I could possibly be”. Immediately an argument ensues as you call each other crazy.

Now here is the funny part, the only real absolute truth is the temperature on the thermostat. Everything else is opinion, judgment and or perspective. No morality here that I can see. Could you both be right? Can it be both hot and cold in the same room at the same time?

Take it one step further to an analogy that most of you are familiar with. Is the glass half empty or is the glass half full? Or is it simply a glass with a measurable amount of water in it? Maybe it’s not so much about if you are an optimist or a pessimist. There would be judgment in that right? Can it in fact be both?

Let me also be clear in what is an absolute truth. I see it as an unalterable and permanent fact. I do get that the concept of absolute truths – what they are and whether they exist – has been debated among many different groups of people, but for our conversation, humor me. I get that philosophers have waded in the muck of defining absolute truth for centuries. While, Plato believed that absolute truth existed, many others believe in relative truths, where facts may vary depending on the circumstances.

Humor me just a little bit more as I recognize that it’s difficult to disprove the concept of absolute truth, since saying that there are no absolute truths – that it is absolutely true that no absolute truth exists – is itself an absolute truth.

The hard part is that living in a world which thrives on exercising judgment leaves very little room to examine what may or may not be an absolute truth. We have become so focused on our opinions and judgments as being factual instead of taking on our country’s newest catch phrase “It is what it is” that we only want to debate for our standing rather than accept that two opinions can both be right.

While certainly the phrase is not new and the origin is uncertain, it has been around for years. It really became more prominent and mainstream in 2004 when the five-word line used by many athletes and coaches to sum up troubles of all sorts sent an instant message that it’s time to move on, and “It is what it is” was declared “The Sports Quote of the Year”.

Don Powell, psychologist, sports fan and author of Best Sports Clichés Ever!, and a local resident of West Bloomfield, Mich., whose nickname is Dr. Cliché has a theory why the phrase has become so popular. “You have athletes becoming more philosophical than they used to be,” said Powell. He further noted that many athletes are now willing to take on “It’s happened. I’m going to forget about it. I’m going to move on. … There is nothing more that can be said or done about it.”

Hanging on to what you believe to be right by making others wrong will never translate into positive or constructive conversation, nor will it ever, despite the motivation behind your desires, create the space for someone to willingly accept you as being “right”.

I am reminded of the old story I once heard about a Rabbi who was having trouble with his congregation. It seemed they could not agree on anything. The President of the congregation said, “Rabbi, this cannot be allowed to continue. We must have a conference, and we must settle all areas of dispute once and for all.” The rabbi agreed.

The Rabbi, the President, and ten elders met in the conference room of the synagogue, sitting about a magnificent mahogany table. One by one the issues were dealt with and on each issue; it became more and more apparent that the Rabbi was a lonely voice. The President of the synagogue said, “Rabbi, enough of this. Let us vote and allow the majority to rule.”

He passed out slips of paper and each man made his mark. The slips were collected and the President said, “You may examine them, Rabbi. It is eleven to one against you. We have the majority, therefore we are right.”

The Rabbi rose to his feet and exclaimed. “So,” he said, “You now think because of this vote that you are right and I am wrong. Well, that is not so. I stand here” –and he raised his arms impressively– “And call upon God to give us a sign that I am right and you are wrong.” And as he said that, there came a frightful crack of thunder and a brilliant flash of lightning that struck the mahogany table and cracked it in two. The room was filled with smoke and fumes, and the President and the elders were hurled to the floor.

Through the carnage, the Rabbi remained erect and untouched, his eyes flashing and a grim smile on his face. Slowly, the President lifted himself above what was left of the table. His hair was singed, his glasses were hanging from one ear, and his clothing was in disarray. Finally he said, “All right, eleven to two. But we still have the majority.”

Here is a little something to take forward. Remove judgment from your daily conversations and watch how people change how they interact with you. I am not saying I’m right, nor if you don’t buy into what I am saying that you are wrong; I’m just saying “It is what it is”.