The transitive definition of the verb “offend” is — “to cause to feel upset, annoyed or resentful” — and I argue today that when you offend an audience in even the smallest way, you have achieved an important human condition that is often missing in the live Modern American theatre experience.
Hubris is dangerous in the classroom. The student that believes nothing can be learned that isn’t already known catches nothing. The instructor that believes in an all-knowing prescience guarantees nothing worthwhile is cast for the capturing. That battle between student and teacher can dangerously become a war between good and evil — and that fight leaves no winners on the field of learning.
It occurred to me recently that, though it happens to just about everybody, not everyone can tell so easily that they have somehow found themselves in a critically pointless argument. Some people continue on with the argument for hours, being unaware of the futility of said argument and the hopelessness of any sort of resolution. I therefore decided to write this primer to maybe help a little.
Why Do Pointless Arguments Exist?
One might think that in theory, at least, pointless arguments should not exist at all. After all, we have but a short and finite time to live on this earth – and seeing as we can hardly agree on what happens after we leave it, we may as well try to make the time we have as pleasant as possible, right? Part of making the time we have here quite pleasant would seem to include the avoidance of pointless arguments. So how is it that these trivial, useless, ultimately insignificant arguments come about? I think it all comes down to the perception of the people who initiate the argument.
As an analogy, let us analyze the average carnival or fair attendant. They might approach a carnival game with the anticipation that they are going to win a large plush animal. Even if the odds are largely stacked against the person, they don’t hesitate to put down their money in the pursuit of getting said large plush animal. If the person really thought that they didn’t have any chance of getting the animal, there is no way that they would put down their hard earned money (or the money of a parent, loving significant other, etc.) in exchange for the chance to win the animal.