The little girl was distraught. Her mother couldn't understand why she kept crying and running to her room. This was a time for celebration. The mother happily informed her three children that their father had just made a Chief - a notable promotion in the Navy. But the little girl was frightened of the prospect. The mother made another attempt to explain to the youngster what this meant - a move to another city, probably a larger house so each child has their own room, and so on. Sniffling, the little one shook her head. "You can't fool me. I know what happens with a Chief, he goes to war!" Whatever she knew of her father and his profession paled beside the television and movie images of painted Native Americans riding into battle.
That true story took place decades ago, but the situation is timeless - people latch on to an idea, an image, and are unable to turn loose of it, even if it is in error. For a youngster, such as the little girl, the thought of living in the high desert of the Southwest and fighting was terrifying. She couldn't understand why her stupid brothers and mother thought that was a good idea. It ruined her day, several days, until finally her father returned and was able to help her understand that it was a promotion in rank and the word "Chief Petty Officer" was a title that had nothing to do with Hollywood western Chiefs. She settled down and began to understand how this was a good thing for the family. But until she had clarification, she was one miserable little girl.
Thoughts That Go Bump in the Night wonders how many folks are distraught because of their beliefs about a word, a phrase, or a concept? One candidate for such mischief is the word justice. Ask ten people what justice means and you'll get ten different answers.
Merriam-Webster's third definition of Justice is "Conformity to truth, fact, or reason." In this definition truth, fact, and reason are terms devoid of emotion. Justice, with respect to, say, gravity, indicates conformity (agreement or harmony) and thus no leaping off tall buildings. Gravity is what it is and acts as it does regardless of how one may interpret it. That's objective. Other interpretations of justice can be infused with emotion, generally with a powerful desire that some perpetrator (someone who's doing something we don't like) is punished.
Until there is acceptable punishment, in this belief, there can be no justice. A hundred lashes on gravity for making that woman fall down! Taken to an extreme, justice may become an irrational demand. A moment of thought on that will reveal the scope of opinion and beliefs about what justice can mean. One man's justice is another man's oppression.
There are other words that create angst among us due to the plethora of personal perceptions, a.k.a beliefs. Consider a few that instantly cause wailing and gnashing of teeth: God, Socialism, Rights, Freedom, and even, Happiness.
This is why Thoughts That Go Bump in the Night likes the statement by John Maynard Keynes - "When somebody persuades me that I am wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?" The corollary by Thoughts... is that "an irrational idea, passionately held, is still an irrational idea." The little girl ended her distress by learning the facts about what "Chief" meant. The same learning is available to everyone. But sometimes, some folks aren't sure what to ask for:
The six year old boy wanted desperately to enter a television contest whose winner received a pony. The lad calculated the amount of yard fenced in the back of the house and was sure the pony would fit. He carefully noted the instructions from the television show to enter the contest - send in your name, telephone number, and address. After a moment, the young fellow was distraught and tore through his closet and dresser. Finally, frustrated, he sought his mother, and asked if he could send in his name, telephone number, and a pair of pants? He didn't have a dress.