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SCOT BELLAVIA: Retracting Myself

In the worst book I’ve ever read, the author disclaimed herself with this sentence: “I will not hold on to a single idea, opinion, identity, story, or relationship that keeps me from emerging new.”

Confusingly and yet conceivably, she gave herself permission to renege anything and everything in her life – beginning with that sentence – in the effort to continually be a “truer, more beautiful version of [her]self.” Paradox as it is, she committed to noncommitment. She was her own authority to do so and to decide what “truer” looks like, simply by virtue of being a grown-up.

In my review of her book, I was critical of this self-endowment. It allowed her to write whatever she wanted and not be held to it. Later, though, I got to thinking that I might provide myself the same disclaimer. Maybe we all do in ways. For me, it’s become most evident with writing.

I type my thoughts up on a certain topic and have it posted on a website to persuade people to my way of thinking, or at least think twice about their own. But, for how long will I hold that opinion exactly? Even if it’s based on immutable Scripture, I may later learn I was misunderstanding the holy passage. How much more do my convictions vacillate on the non-spiritual?

Right now, I’m thinking that the only difference between me and that contradictory author is that she is more upfront about it. However, I am more hesitant than her to use a paradox to define how I think about my past, present, and future beliefs.

Anyway, another difference is that that elastic clause in that awful book (the quote above) allows for a complete overhaul of any opinion or story or identity or relationship. I don’t hold such an open hand on these things. I suspect neither does the author; she just preaches she does. There are ideas and beliefs we all hold tightly because nobody is that self-sufficient.

The question remains: should I regret my written words if I now disagree with them? I think it depends on their implications.

But who would decide the problematicity of a potentially outdated opinion? My current self? After all, he is presumably the most enlightened version of me. But he would hardy be objective enough. So, perhaps the greater authority of our to-this-point-correct society. As if chronology necessarily enlightens.

But seriously, what if the implications are overwhelming? What if I once scribed a heresy or unknowingly based my thesis on a piece of since-debunked research? Should I erase from the earth and internet that which I can no longer believe? Well, I believed it at one time and maybe it resonates with someone else. So maybe, as it was for me, it’s a necessary stepping-stone for someone to a more correct belief.

If nothing else, charting my beliefs through articles is a convenient way to collect and recall my changing opinions. Reviewing spiritual and intellectual growth assures me I’m improving. We can always improve though our beliefs should not respectively move.

I think I’ll leave my thoughts posted. I share them to be discussed, not as anything inspired or resolute.

– Scot Bellavia


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