This week a I am writing a personal blog. I fear that my research does not only yield new scientific and political insights. It might also change my character.
I will explain. The other day I was on the train in a silence compartment. You can guess what happened: a group of cheerful students came in, sat down and started their loud and happy conversation. I would have been very annoyed by this in the past and would have gotten up quite quickly to say something about it. But the annoyance came up this time and almost as quickly is ebbed away again. I thought they must have had a very good reason to be so happy. I decided to enjoy their cheerfulness for the next twenty minutes and went on with my day.
Strange, isn’t it? And I’m not writing this down to give myself Gandhi-like compassion. I was just a bit surprised and worried. Because they weren’t quiet, and they should have been. And I wanted to meditate, and that was more difficult with their chatter than without it. And yet, all I could do was shrug my shoulders and smile.
Another example: I recently participated in a psychological test. You know, on of those internet tests. This time not from a company that wants to sell you something on the sly, but from a university that researched moral boundaries.
I liked that, so I joined in. And they asked me questions like: you see an employee of a funeral home eating pizza. The pizza is on the body of a dead person. What do you think of this? (By the way, another one was: you see a woman wearing a very big hat. She walks into a building and doesn’t take off her hat. What do you think of this?).
To my husband’s dismay (and horror) I couldn’t get annoyed by any of this. Eating a pizza from a corpse. Yes, I wouldn’t do it myself. But did I find it morally reprehensible? Hmmm, I didn’t really think so (you can see it in front of you, my husband behind me watching the screen and pulling hairs from his head).
It wasn’t that I didn’t find anything morally reprehensible anymore by the way: hurting people or animals, I still react to that fairly primary and emotionally clear to that. I don’t think that’s permissible, even if you’ve just heard that your wife is seriously ill (Yes really, that was also a case submitted). But if it doesn’t really hurt or harm anyone, then I honestly don’t care much.
At least: on paper. I guess that when I go to the funeral home to give one last greeting to a loved one, and I see a member of staff eating pizza from his or her chest, I will get furious. But is it because I find it morally reprehensible? Or because it is MY dearly deceased, and that member of staff has to go and eat from his own dearly deceased? These kinds of constantly irritating questions in my head keep me from forming judgment more and more often.
And that’s pretty crazy, for someone who used to have an opinion about everything. To be honest, I don’t know yet if I like it either. It all feels very ‘moderate’. Not really a term I like. And what if I slide all the way down? If I become a nihilist? Never mind anything anymore, or like it? Because that danger lies, of course, in my moderation. So I implore you: will you warn me, when you catch me in a state of a complete lack of opinion?