PART II: THE CASES WE MAKE
When we are children is, perhaps, the only time we see the world for what it truly is - a place where very few things are certain, where anything can be lost at any time, and our continued contentment is neither promised nor insurable. Now, because it would be understandably terrifying to wake up every day in a world like this, and not have a set of skills that allow us to function in it, our dinosaur brains learned to respond to our tenuous existence in one of two ways: fight or flight. We controlled our destiny, in our evolutionary years, by sheer instinct.
The funny thing is, even though we’re not running from saber-toothed tigers anymore, we tend to still respond to present-day situations that scare or threaten us in the same way - by becoming defensive or evasive. With the development of language and the advent of storytelling, we've also developed another way to protect our sanity and make life easier to manage when we're not fighting or flighting: we tell ourselves a story that makes us feel better. And the biggest story we tell ourselves is that the world we live in is not only predictable, but controllable.
Now, we know in our heart of hearts, even at a very early age, that this story is not entirely true, and if we applied any rational logic to it, we would be forced to doubt its validity. The thing is, we don't want to believe in a scary, unpredictable world. We want to believe in a safe, controllable one. So what we do - actually, anytime we want to convince ourselves that something is true - is we go on a hunt for evidence, so we can build a case that makes it easy to believe the story we tell ourselves. If you look hard enough for evidence of something you want to prove, you WILL find it, an if you can't find it, you will likely fabricate it. Because want to believe the world is predictable and controllable, even if it is magical thinking, we build our own little case for it, admitting and dismissing evidence, oftentimes regardless of its relevance or validity, in an effort to convince ourselves that what we believe is right and true. And keep in mind, we don't just do this with one story; we tell ourselves stories every day that we want to be true, and we build cases for those stories that help us believe them.
Case building comes pretty naturally to us because humans are storytellers. What do lawyers do, when presented with a mountain of evidence in a case? One side’s lawyer picks through it. Then other side’s lawyer picks through it. Finally, each side presents their evidence, tells a story, and the Jury decides which story they believe the most. Usually, to make the stories more convincing, each lawyer comes up with reasons why the other lawyer’s evidence isn’t relevant, admissible, or otherwise worth paying attention to. They point out inconsistencies in the stories, or bridge gaps with plausible explanations.
The important thing to note here is that often, two people can work with the same evidence, and craft two completely different stories. What matters most is the fact that, as individuals, we make a choice about what evidence we accept, and what evidence we dismiss, and that is what determines the way our stories go. The choice is made based on our own individual beliefs and experiences, not on some universal, non-negotiable truth. Lastly, just because we've made a convincing case for something does NOT mean we've somehow discovered (and proved) this universal, non-negotiable truth. What's true for you is not always true for everyone else, and just because you strongly believe in it doesn't mean it's right - it just means you've built a pretty convincing case. Back in the day, there was a pretty convincing case for the world being flat - a case Columbus blew open when he sailed his ship into history.