Jun 29, 2009

To be open

An anecdote: When I was at the newspaper, I did an interview with a man who wrote about UFOs and abductions, conspiracy and paranormal theories. We talked about his philosophy of science. While interviewing him, I had this incredible sense of liberation, and I remembered why I loved journalism. Or, more, why it is good for me. In college, in politics, philosophy and theology, I would have had to engage this man as a combatant. I wouldn’t have convinced him or changed him, of course, but I would have argued with him and disagreed with him. I would have had to take a position and fight him. I would have fought him and would have tried to eviscerate him, not just making a point but making it so he was humiliated, frustrated, feeling like a little boy who pissed himself during recess.

I would have done this because I am mean, because I was afraid it would be done to me, and because I believed the rightness of my idea was so assuredly right it justified everything. I would have done this in the name of an abstraction.

As a journalist, though, the rightness or wrongness of what he thought was irrelevant, and I was just interested in his story, and what he thought, and all I needed to do was hear him. I gave up fighting and felt free. I wanted to hear him, and know him, and understand him. I wanted to tell his story, whatever it was.

He had a smooth head, a Voice-of-God voice and shiny eyes; he believed he had secret knowledge, but he was willing to share it with me. He said he thought the world was weirder than we were usually willing to admit. He said we had to be open, and I said I agreed.