Five am in the morning, and sleep is a stranger. There are thoughts buzzing around in my head, and respite will not come until I let them out. An overnight flight has ghost howled overhead. Amos, my dog, lies softly snoring at my blanket coddled feet. A diffuse reflected phantasm of Vancouvers city lights illuminates the Eastern night sky, giving the water between the islands a pale, glossy feel.
Of course that’s how I feel about it, and you have only my opinion for that. However, that’s what is going round and round in my head at the moment, keeping pleasant repose at arms length. Like a maddening earworm of a silly pop tune, it won’t leave me be. Think of this as an exorcism of sorts.
There’s an ironic old adage which goes “I know the truth – but you’re just opinionated.” Yet isn’t having opinions on subjects what makes us human? There is even mental elbow room to say that opinion underpins everything we are and do. Here’s the bare bones dictionary definition;
1. A view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
2. The beliefs or views of a large number or majority of people about a particular thing.
view – judgement – judgment – mind – notion – idea
Back when I was but a callow youth, or as Hamlet put it; ‘in my salad days, When I was green in judgment’ I found myself thinking this particular thought. Because it is subjective, the truth can only ever be a matter of opinion. Which is true. For a given value of ‘truth’ that is. There is no absolute value. Because human knowledge is limited, we don’t have all the definitive answers. As that knowledge expands, as we find out more about the universe and our place in it, we plug the gaping abyss of fact with huge wodges of opinion as a kind of stop gap. Or Quantum or String theory. Whatever. Until the next big proof comes around.
For example, there are those who contend a given ‘holy’ book contains the ‘truth’. It’s their opinion. Others insist that Darwins theory of evolution makes all the religious schtick unnecessary. Again, that is another opinion. Bloody wars have been fought, and terrible slaughter made over opinions like these. Millions slaughtered by repressive regimes all because they hold a differing opinion. Which is, if you give it enough thought, a bloody silly way of getting people to change their minds. The threat of violence only suppresses opinions. It cannot change how people think and feel. By way of illustration I was watching a documentary on YouTube last night about Russian aviation development in the mid 20th century, and heard about all the Technicians arrested and executed during the Stalinist era. ‘What a waste of talent’ was the thought that passed through my mind. However, Stalin was obviously of another opinion.
People used to think that Phlogiston was a thing, rather than what we now understand as the process of combustion. All scientific theory is opinion until a body of fact can be garnered to back it up. Theories. being mere matters of opinion, can be overthrown. Science is never settled. Like a river, it is a continual process rather than an absolute. Prevent or suppress the flow of ideas and the river dries up, as do its benefits.
Judges, when passing sentence or judgement are expressing an opinion based on their interpretation of case and accepted law. Politicians express opinions from which those very laws are formed. They in turn are driven by public opinion (Or some would say increasingly focus groups and special advisors). Dependent of course on whether public opinion is in keeping with their own.
The Internet is the great sounding board of our age allowing all to have their say. Yet what most of it drives home one inescapable conclusion; it’s only opinions. Yet how great a part those opinions play. In my opinion, that is.