Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Whatever Floats Your Boat

You have probably heard someone use the expression in the title of this post: "Whatever Floats Your Boat." It is usually said in response to someone expressing his or her personal beliefs or personal likes and dislikes. The responder, by saying the aforementioned words, is expressing an opinion that basically says, "You can believe or like whatever you want as long as it makes you happy or fulfills your life, even if the same does not apply to me." This is obviously true when it comes to subjective matters such as what hobbies a person likes or what a person's favorite colors are. However, should it apply to matters that are factual in nature?

For instance, if a person decides that, for him, four plus four would henceforth be equal to nine, would it be appropriate to say, "Whatever floats your boat?" I don't think so. I dare say that most people would challenge this statement, saying that it is false for everyone. Yet, when it comes to certain philosophical or religious beliefs, many people are hesitant to challenge the truthfulness of the beliefs regardless of how irrational or contradictory they are. They, in essence, respond, "Whatever floats your boat."

Many years ago when I was a member of the Church of Christ, a fellow believer and I were at a local hobby store. We discovered that the owner was an acquaintance of mine. We began talking about various topics and eventually got around to discussing religious beliefs. The acquaintance told us he was a member of some denomination, I believe Baptist. My friend and I began expressing some of the differences between his denominations' beliefs and those of the Church of Christ. With every statement we made, he would respond something like this: "That's great that you believe that way. If it works for you, that is good. I will believe what works for me." In essence, he was saying, "Whatever floats your boat."

Of course, when it comes to beliefs concerning the supernatural realm, no one knows what the absolute truth is. They may think they do, but they don't. In reality, we don't even know for sure if the supernatural exists. So, "Whatever floats your boat" seems to be the appropriate mentality.

But what about the case where a person knows the truth about something, yet chooses to believe something different because it makes them feel good? Or how about people who withhold the truth from a friend or family member because they sincerely believe the person would become overly distraught. What is more important, believing a disturbing truth or a feel-good falsehood? This has always been an intriguing question to me.

I personally prefer the truth to a feel-good lie. I just don't like the idea of believing something false. As those Hulu aliens say, that's the way I roll. In many cases, believing something false can lead to all kinds of trouble or conflict, particularly when the untruth concerns other people. Yet I know there are people who, as Col. Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson) said in A Few Good Men, can't handle the truth. To them I say, "Whatever floats your boat!"

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