Re: virus: Being uncomfortable isn't always bad

Tim Rhodes (
Thu, 4 Feb 1999 23:40:49 -0800

First off I want make it clear that what I'm about to say isn't a direct comment on what Reed said below or on the conversation so far. But this ties in so startilingly well with another conversation I overheard today while at lunch that I simply must use it as a springboard into the subject:

>Kristee wrote:
>>It says a lot when it becomes a dreaded chore to respond to CoV posts,
>>simply because I chose to speak my mind. prdla,

>Reed replied:
>That is a memetic defense mechanism. You are experiencing cognitive
>dissonance. The force of your present way of thinking is resisting
>the reasonable part of you, which is confronted with inconsistency.
>It is a very unpleasant experience...a "dreaded chore"...I agree. I've
>been right where you are and I know exactly what you mean.
>Two things can happen.
>1) Your present way of thinking overcomes reason and you
>become more resistant to change. For instance, you will begin
>to automatically discount anything Richard or I say...perhaps you
>will log off COV to avoid further input along these lines.
>2) Your present way of thinking will be overcome and your mind
>will assemble a new way of thinking accomodating your new

Now today, while I was out getting lunch I was eavesdropping on the conversations around me, as one always does when dining alone, and at a table behind me a well meaning Xtian woman was evangelizing to her less than responsive lunchmate. The obviously unwilling evangelizie was doing that uncomfortable verbal dance one does when trying to end the conversation--or at least change the subject--without offending her friend or her friends beliefs. But her friend was having none of it and kept preaching on about the Glory of God. "Ah! This is an interesting dynamic!" I thought to myself, as I positioned myself for a better earful.

After a little bit of this dance the heathen simply gave up, seemed to resign herself to her friend's inability to pick up on the hint, and resorted to becoming completely unresponsive. The best the Christian woman could get out of her was a grunt now and then or the odd, bitingly dismissive, "Fascinating!" as she turned her attention back to her salad. The lines of communication had completely broken down and question quickly became, would they be restored or would the rest of the meal go on in uncomfortable silence?

There was a long pause--too long for two people sitting opposite one another across a small table--and it became clear to me that the heathen felt she had done her part to save the relationship before it could get to this point and was not about to restart the stalled conversation. The ball was clearly in the Christian's court. I half expected her to go for the easy out, whatever the female equivalent of, "So how `bout those Yankees? Think they'll take the pennant?" might be. But instead, she surprised me.

"I know this makes you uncomfortable." she offered. "I felt the same way when I first heard the Word. Satan doesn't let go of his hold easily. He does everything in his power to keep people from seeing the true love of God and the truth about his son Jesus Christ."

"I think deep down you know the truth," she continued, unrelentingly. "But you're so locked into this worldly life that you refuse to listen to your heart. And that conflict is making it impossible for you to hear what I'm telling you at all. It's like there's a war going on between your head and
your heart--and there is a war going on; a war between Satan, who doesn't want to give you up, and Jesus, who will never give up on you no matter what."

And then it happened. I couldn't believe what she said next:

"The psychologists call it `cognitive dissonance'," the Christian mouthed, "It happens when you're faced with the truth, but are just too afraid to accept it all at once."

"ARRGHHHHHHH!!!" I thought to myself, dropping my burrito and spilling half its contents across the table and down my front. "WHO THE HELL TOLD THE CHRISTIANS ABOUT **COGNITIVE DISSONANCE**!?!"

I missed the rest of their conversation. My mind was reeling from the possibilities. Was Pat Robertson clueing them in to this new term--and how to employ it--behind our backs every morning on his 700 Club? Was she one of those hip, new yuppie Christians that sings rock songs at their services and hold prayer meetings over grand-slams at Denny's? (She didn't really look it, but who could tell what she was like without that business suit on?) If they've already begun to co-opt the term, could we, would we, ever be able to get it back? Were they turning out to really be the superior memetic engineers, after all? Could we ever hope to hold a candle to them at a game they've been perfecting for almost 2000 years?

The mind reels.

-Prof. Tim