I think everyone I know knows this, but trying to keep yourself healthy by disinfecting everything you touch, thinking all bacteria and other life weakens your immune system and makes you less healthy. People misunderstand bacteria and other life. They aren’t exclusively unhealthy, though some are, and don’t only exist in a few places. Most of them are symbiotic and are everywhere all the time, including in us, even ones our immune systems have to battle. If our bodies didn’t handle them all the time, we’d lose the ability to and an unexpected infection could kill us.
The parents I’ve talked to tell me you get healthy children not by protecting them from every risk but though active, outdoors, dirty play. Get their hands dirty. Let them interact with life. They’ll get sick sometimes but they’ll emerge stronger. A protective cocoon will atrophy their physical resilience.
No one likes feeling sick or pain, but overcoming challenges makes us strong, resilient, and healthy.
I’ve written about outrage and offense as well as hatred. Blaming others for your emotions undermines your ability to manage them, weakening your emotional resilience. People complain about feeling outraged and offended, intending to generate support from others. If people only talked about their feeling bad to complain, I would celebrate their right to talk about whatever they wanted, however much I would avoid spending time with them while they complained.
But they don’t just express themselves. They use their blame to influence others, including legislators, to try to disinfect ideas we all interact with. They view ideas like overprotective parents view bacteria, thinking that protecting us from them will make us safer. Like those who misunderstand bacteria and life, they misunderstand ideas. Ideas aren’t exclusively unhealthy, though some are, and don’t exist in a few places. Most are symbiotic and are everywhere, including in us all the time, even ones we have to battle intellectually. If we didn’t battle them intellectually all the time, an unexpected idea could undo our society.
If I hadn’t learned from the Prohibition and other misguided morality-based ideas, I might find some of their motivation compelling, but the same intent led to the unintended results of Prohibition as much as the intended ones, and a majority of people didn’t even want most of the intended ones.
I find that you get healthy minds and societies not by protecting them from every possible idea you don’t like but through active, outdoors, dirty thinking. Getting your mind dirty keeps it healthy. Interacting with ideas you don’t like and embracing offense and outrage helps you grow and learn.
I recommend not allowing others’ claims of offense and outrage influence you to allow them to silence ideas in a vain attempt to stop pain by confusing their inability to manage their emotions with someone hurting them. I feel compassion for people who make themselves helpless to provoke others’ pity, outrage, and support, but I don’t support them. I’d rather they learned to strengthen themselves and make themselves more resilient.
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