Of Anchors and Ships

10 10 2011

Occasionally, we might encounter the avid gossiper, who always seems to have some nasty tidbit of information about someone, and our ears are itching to hear.  Sometimes, that gossiper is clever enough to choose the right people to gossip about, and sometimes that individual is left quite lonely and wondering why no one wants to talk.  For example, a good target is some jerk whom no one likes and always seems to be stepping on other people’s toes.  A bad target is someone who gets a lot of attention, the sort of person whom everyone seems to like and everyone wants to be.  The insecure gossiper usually aims at the second target, if only because of pure envy.  While the aim may be a simple matter of bringing down a person of higher esteem, boosting one’s own rank in the process, the result is usually quite the opposite.  The gossiper is ground under a thousand heels, and the hero, the person of high esteem, is loved all the more as an undeserving victim.  The fact is simply that some people cannot effectively have their characters assassinated by certain other people, no matter how hard those people try.

Therein lies the principle of the ship and the anchor.  Both are enacting an opposite tension to the anchor line.  We might call it a battle, or a tug-of-war.  To some extent, the ship may move the anchor, but for the most part, the anchor has the advantage.  While the anchor is firmly nested into the floor of the bay, the ship is not-too-firmly nested in the water of the bay.  It’s not too hard to see why the anchor holds the greater influence.  Its place is more firmly grounded.  In any given conflict, some people are more like anchors, and some are more like ships.  Take, for instance, a certain co-worker of mine, who happens to be great friends with my boss’ boss.  I hardly ever talk to that boss, but he has been to her house, to parties and a funeral with her.  He’s not just an anchor.  The man is a cleat on the dock.  Let’s just take a hypothetical situation, which, thankfully, has never happened.  Let’s say that boss calls me into her office and asks me what I think of my coworker, who happens, I might add, to be very new to our group.  I’ll admit that I can’t stand the fellow.  He’s an irascible fool.  I’ll admit it, I say, to anyone but her.  She has already made up her mind about him.  Anything I say can and will be used against me.  Anything I say will be used by the listener to shape her opinion of me, and it will have absolutely no effect upon her opinion of my coworker.  The effect is guaranteed.

Now, a wise audience can always discern truth from lies, and a wise audience could take the word of a stranger or even an enemy against that of an ally, if the evidence and reasoning demanded it.  Even a wise audience would still be tempted toward bias, and I’m still unconvinced that I’ve met more than a handful of wise people in my entire life.  No matter how true or virtuous or obvious my campaign, my standing with my audience versus my opponent will, more often than not, determine whether my argument gets my opponent trounced, or whether that argument gets me lynched.

It’s not just a matter of opposing people, either.  Sometimes it’s a matter of opposing ideas.  For example, in this day and age the idea of creationism is weak and Darwinism so widely accepted, that, more often than not, any randomly selected person or group of people will disregard anything further that I have to say if I suggest that the popular one is a fable and the unpopular one is truth.  It’s a nepotism of ideas.  Never mind that Darwinism really is a glorified Aesop’s fable.  If I promote what you’ve already embraced, then you will think highly of me, and if I denounce what you love, then you will disregard anything else I say.  If the roles were reversed, say, and I were the anchor and the ideology the ship, then I could sway your opinion on the ideology.  That would require you to already hold me in high esteem and have a weaker, less firmly formed, opinion on the ideology.  What are the odds of that?  Most people reading this are going to be strangers to me.  The others won’t even realize they know me.  The effect is that anything I say will do more to affect how people who read this think of me than it will affect how people think of the topic at hand.  To remedy this, I could use the bully pulpit to send that point home, maybe speak from the authority of a scientist…and then I could lose my job.

The first rule of speech-making is to always know your audience.  In this case that is impossible.  Recklessly, I throw my thoughts, in all their naked honesty out for the world to see.  I do it because, by chance, some people will discover it with the prompting of God already at work in their lives, and this will be just another of the many ways that God uses to bring that message home.

More often than not, it will earn me a boatload of ridicule.  It is what it is.  Sometimes the anchor gets dragged through the mud.

The weakness of thinking in our culture is this propensity to let the experts do our thinking for us.  The experts will not suffer the consequences of our choosing to follow them.  We will.  For thousands of years, humanity has been led like sheep by the experts.  The experts were pagan priests, mollifying the many polytheistic gods.  Then the experts were Catholic priests, killing Christians for trying to build their own faith directly from the Bible, or, like that one famous Christian named Galileo, threatened with death for claiming that the Earth was round.  The experts love their power, and they fight like mad dogs to hold on to it.  Today’s experts are the Darwinists.  It’s the same story as always, just a different fable.  They show you a bone and tell you a story and all is well; only now, we are no longer expected to kiss that bone.  Perhaps even that will change.

Fighting the experts, today, is the same as always.  They are the anchor and we are the ship.  They carry more weight, and their reputation is more firmly grounded.  All we can do is struggle as we might, perhaps moving that anchor a little.  In the end, those of us left unsullied and unabused are simply not trying hard enough.

Sincerely,

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