Sunday Snippet: F. Scott Fitzgerald

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. “

As you may already know, I take a moment each Sunday to find and discuss an interesting quote here on Beyond the Rhetoric. The idea is that we can look to the great minds of both the past and the present for insights that are valuable and applicable in today’s society. Whether it be about imagination or how we sabotage our own efforts, these quotes can be great for illuminating our paths and leading us in the right direction.

This week, we turn our attention to American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, a man best known for authoring The Great Gatsby, among countless other books and short stories. As a writer of fiction, Fitzgerald valued the importance of imagination, but he also required the ability to see the world through the eyes of many different characters.

In this way, it was necessary for Fitzgerald to consider opinions and viewpoints that conflicted with his own, recognizing that perception is everything and that there is no single reality. For every posited perspective, there is inevitably a polar opposite. For everything that we may hold as fact, someone else may disagree and this other person could very well prove us wrong at some point in the future. I need not remind you that we used to think the earth was flat… then we thought it was a sphere… and now we think it’s a “squished” sphere. Opinions change. “Facts” change.

Life is all about balance and perspective. Holding steadfast to an extremist point of view is foolish and lacking in sophistication. As Fitzgerald describes, true intelligence is the ability to hold two completely opposing ideas simultaneously without self-destructing. Apple is the best and worst company on the planet. The harmonized sales tax is a brilliant and horrible idea for British Columbia. Can you hold these conflicting views at the same time?

Can you get past the propaganda of a universally-accepted “great product” to see its fatal flaws? Can you recognize a problem and simultaneously ponder its solution? Keep an open mind and maintain balance in how you view the world.