Weirdness & Tolerance

Tonight’s discussion with the Philosophy Gang here in Boulder was on the topic of “Weirdness”. I had no idea what to expect.

As with the topic of death, which I wrote about earlier, I found the discussion was impossible to capsulate but I should get used to that. We all have preconceived ideas brought to the philosophy meetings and they don’t agree with other ideas. These varying beliefs and opinions result in a wide range of completely different definitions for a given word, phrase, or idea.

The words we spent the evening throwing ideas about to discuss weirdness were such things as quirkiness, mysterious, frightening, dangerous, unusual, strange, unique, and uncanny. I think all those words mean something certain but like so many other words in our language we’ve replaced them with this general meaning of what it is to be weird. If people were more intentional in the words they chose to use, I believe “weird” would pop out of people’s mouths much less often.

The meeting’s facilitator researched the definition to our topic word before coming to the meeting. He relayed the first definition as something which is supernatural or preternatural. I was at first surprised by this definition but the more I gave it thought, the more I liked the definition. We spent very little time discussing miracles but I think they are the weirdest thing of all. If I were to define the word “weird” I would say it’s something non-understandable, attainable or explainable by humanity.

The co-facilitator quoted Terentius saying “I am a human being, so nothing human is strange to me.” This quote is new to me but after considering it this evening I agree for the most part. The words “weird” and “strange” have slightly different meanings so if “weird” was replaced with “strange” in the quote I’d completely agree with Terentius. As I understand the words, strangeness is what is unknown, unfamiliar, and unnatural whereas weirdness is more of a specific kind of strangeness–I think it’s the strangest thing of all. I think weirdness is so strange that it can’t be understood. Humans may become accustomed to things of humanity which they first regard as strange but no human may become accustomed to what is supernatural or preternatural.

To back up this idea that what is not understandable, attainable or explainable by humanity is the meaning of weirdness, I could ask people who many might call weird if they think they themselves are weird. My guess is they would almost all say “no” because they believe they’re understandable and explainable. In some cases, for instance if they’re bodies could bend in ways bodies don’t naturally bend, I would think they would agree they are weird. I think all examples of when a person would honestly believe their own person is “weird” would be due to circumstances out of their control, and the control of other humans, because I believe what is preternatural is intrinsically supernatural.

We all have quirks but to say quirkiness is weirdness is to say weirdness is a relative term among humans, and I don’t think it is. I think what is weird, in the correct usage of the word, is something which is weird to all humans, not just a group.

I wonder why this change in language has happened. If “weird” was originally meant to describe what can’t be understood have we become as lazy in living or as scared of difference as to say simple human idiosyncrasies are non-understandable? Many people today dismiss others as “weird” simply because they’re different but people like the Bouldarians I’m living around, as a majority, share the common belief that it is good to accept all people and their beliefs—which means, to accept what they call “weirdness.” I think it’s right to love all people, regardless of how similar they are to us but I believe it’s wrong to condone their immoral actions and accept their false beliefs.

As a side note on tolerance and acceptance, one young lady in the group tonight expressed anxiety about accepting all that she comes in contact with. She has realized ideas and beliefs are in conflict and she is uncomfortable with holding it all within. I sympathize for her, but I hope she finds the truth through her wrestling. She called this feeling of perplexity weird. I would say this feeling she has is possible for her to understand but at the moment she doesn’t. Her feeling could probably be more appropriately called unsettling.

A man in the group mentioned how he likes to be accepting of people and their beliefs but he won’t go so far as to accept and allow a murderer to do as he wishes. I found this interesting—tolerance will only go so far with the tolerant. But why? Why shouldn’t a mass murderer do as he pleases if there is no absolute right or wrong? If what he wishes to do is bad, who’s to say? As C. S. Lewis wrote, “The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other . . . the standard that measures two things is something different from either. You are in fact comparing them both with some Real Morality, admitting there is such a thing as a real Right, independent of what people think, and that some  people’s ideas get nearer to that real Right than others. If your moral ideas can be truer, and those of the Nazis less true, there must be something—some Real Morality—for them to be true about.” But that’s a whole other subject. Maybe I will write about morality and conscience next.

Does anyone here have thoughts to add about weirdness?

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