Sunday, May 10, 2015

Opinions And The Opinionated

DISCLAIMER: This is another opinion, from an opinionated nobody writing an opinion column. 

"Opinions are like armpits: everyone has a couple. They all stink." An ironic statement at the very least. But true. It is, however, just another opinion. 

Opinion: o·pin·ion
noun: a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

Whether it's wheel size, componentry selection, bike type, spring rate, kit colors, race venues, sexualization or in depth articles about heavy hitting subjects, bike media is full of them. We all have opinions. Gear reviews, prize-winning photos and even contests for best line... They come down to a few opinions. Article comments rife with disdain or even abuse due to a difference of opinion; one claims he's unequivocally correct while the other claims that no, SHE has the answer. But is there such a thing as perfect truth? 

The word 'opinion' comes from the Latin root word opinari, which means 'to think, believe'. Humans are funny creatures; some opinions are influenced as easily as the sun falls across a meadow, while other opinions stand frigidly against the storms of rational thought, objective evidence and even proven science. We think, therefore, we are. Yet everything we think we know rests just on the edge of everything we don't. Like light, we can only see to the edge of it before darkness takes over. There are opinions that flex and morph as new information is revealed, while a few refuse even the most convincing evidence. We see, we absorb, we compute, we judge. We form an opinion, and those thoughts are influenced by perspective, which is borne of conditioning, by personality, by events. Trauma, happiness, experience... They form us, thus forming the lense we see the world through. Most of the information we base our opinions off is colored before we even realize we have an existing bias. Very few judgements are objective, which is why there's a difference between 'opinion' and 'fact'.

But think about this: fact is relative. Fact only exists as long as we can remain ignorant of other information that would influence the factual. For instance, the world was once believed to be flat. Galileo was punished as a heretic because he claimed that the stars didn't rotate around planet Earth. So it could be argued that, without perfect knowledge, all 'fact' is simply an ignorant assumption. We see the puzzles we can put together until the light shines on the leftover pieces. 

A few months ago I was asked to review a bike and write an in-depth review of said bike. I took the bike out for a maiden voyage and came back cursing. It was AWFUL, I said. It rode like shit, I said. The entire bike was compromised around a faulty shock that wouldn't perform under pressure. It was slow, it lagged in turns, it was unresponsive. I despised the thing. Upon hearing my complaints, the mechanic took a look at the shock, then told me the entire thing was filled with water and random mud particles. Okay. So he tuned it up, sent me back out on it, and VOILA! It rode like the overly-hyped beast that it was. But my limited perspective and pre-ride bias tainted my experience from the beginning. So much, in fact, that I wasted a good day on the bike instead of realizing that something was wrong. My previously held opinion of a company soured me before my brain actually had any useful information upon which to judge the performance of this bike, and it cost me valuable time. 

"But sir, they drink the sand because they think it is water."

"No, they do not. They drink the sand because they don't know the difference."

Between the quote and the bike debacle, it was an interesting lesson for me, the bitch queen of the opinionated. After all, my outspoken opinions are why I was handed this column; I wasn't hired as an expert, an athlete, a model, or a professional. I was hired as a talking head; a body with a hilarious, albeit polarizing, opinion. I was brought on to shine light on the different and wild thoughts that come into my mind, many of which are totally irrelevant to any sort of dialogue. I was brought on to extract emotion from you and from whoever decides they'll drink my particular brand of sand. Some of the opinions I speak are simply to play devil's advocate. I'm looking for a reaction. Others will come from a very sincere, passionate place. At the end of the day, what I think shouldn't matter to you. 

The best thing about opinions is that anyone can have them. Having an opinion takes courage. It requires a piece of the holder, and it's an investment. To have an opinion, you have to think. You have to believe in something. Find as much truth as you're able, as much objective information, and form your own. Allow it to change with the tides and morph and grow. 

That's the beauty of an opinion: they're out there. It will either be yours or someone else's. Don't drink the sand. Find your own water.

Isaac Miller Photo

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