Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Got the Thinks

"I feel like" vs. "I think that." Molly Worthen wants to bring the latter back ("Stop Saying 'I Feel Like'"). 

A couple of weeks ago, the parsha dealt with the Egla Erufa, a seemingly odd ritual when a dead body was discovered. Part of the ritual is when the elders and kohanim of a city would both argue for the right of responsibility for the man's death. 

Obviously, neither the elders nor kohanim were guilty for his murder. Yet, all these individuals insisted on taking the rap for it. 

This past Shabbos I was explaining to Eewok (who, like any soul, is fast with the "Not my fault") that Yehuda was worthy of melucha because he took responsibility of mechiras Yosef, the safety of Binyomin, and the incident with Tamar. 
"I feel like" is another way we abdicate responsibility. 

When we say "I feel like," there is nothing to argue. One cannot argue with a feeling, after all. "Well, that's just what I feel. I dunno why." 
Natasha Pangarkar, a senior at Williams College, hears “I feel like” “in the classroom on a daily basis,” she said. “When you use the phrase ‘I feel like,’ it gives you an out. You’re not stating a fact so much as giving an opinion,” she told me. “It’s an effort to make our ideas more palatable to the other person.”
I understand the need to "make our ideas more palatable to the other person"; I'm a non-confrontationalist. But when it comes to opinion, I'm usually not frightened to voice it. It's what I think, after all, based on personal experience, information, and my own hopefully logical conclusions.  
Yet here is the paradox: “I feel like” masquerades as a humble conversational offering, an invitation to share your feelings, too — but the phrase is an absolutist trump card. It halts argument in its tracks.
When people cite feelings or personal experience, “you can’t really refute them with logic, because that would imply they didn’t have that experience, or their experience is less valid,” Ms. Chai told me.
“It’s a way of deflecting, avoiding full engagement with another person or group,” Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, a historian at Syracuse University, said, “because it puts a shield up immediately. You cannot disagree.”
Providing the other person isn't refuting my argument with meaningless "Well, that's stupid" retorts, I should be fine. 

It's "I think, therefore I am," not "I feel, therefore I am." Heck, animals feel (yes, some are capable of logic, but we are not discussing elephants right now).  

Is it so terrifying to take responsibility for an opinion? It's not even bearing the onus for a random corpse. 

Plus, having opinions makes one interesting. Be interesting. 


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