Why Spirit of Contradiction?

When I was small (or should I say when I was little?) it seems I could be quite annoying. I suppose that I was fond of asking difficult and awkward questions, and I had an inconvenient memory that tended to recall the most improper things I’d hear, from my parents or the television or anywhere else. I remember I used to be (and to some extent still am, though fortunately more selectively) terribly curious, I had an insatiable thirst for information. I say information and not knowledge, because the things I knew were most often individual data points, quite useless fragments of truth without a good understanding on how they connected to each other, or to the world. My mind was filled with unarticulated facts, which value or relevance I was not equipped to gauge, but I still loved being able to have that concrete and solid feeling of knowing something, having pieces of truth. I suppose it was my first and last spell of collector’s impulse, I collected facts like any other child would collect cards or stones, with no better reason or organizing principle, and likewise, the more obscure and unknown they were, the better.

It was also the case, and this is retrospectively quite embarrassing, both on my own account and of those people I convinced, that I could pass myself as,
if not an expert, certainly an initiate to certain things, because my information retrieval efforts were conducted through quite well-defined channels, and the information was quite complete and extensive on some domains, and though I could give some examples, they’re better left to the past. Lest you think I’m bragging, whenever I remember these things or I have them brought to my attention by someone talking about them, I find myself rather uncomfortable. I guess that, in some ways, it seems to me the kind of thing I did was quite stupid, and little by little I realized that knowing things was quite different from understanding them, though it is no more stupid than other common childish things, I suppose.

However, one other thing I remember and which still can bring a smile to my face from time to time is the seemingly endless argumentative well from which I drew the energy to question almost anything I’d find wrong or insufficiently explained. For this rather annoying–but also valuable–facet of my personality, I was often given the appellation of spirit of contradiction, which is something that Spanish children tend to hear at least once in their lives (far more often, thinking about it…). You are spirit of contradiction, would say my mother, and I couldn’t but take it as a complement, even then.

When I first started a weblog, I decided on calling it something different, which I thought sounded better, but Spirit of Contradiction was the second choice. Today, I think it much more appropriate, given how, more than information, I hope to convey more articulated thoughts, and how contradiction–the very grounding of dialectics–is the vital soil of all new ideas, of all new solutions. Making use of this occasion, I thought it’d be also fun, as a further justification of this title, to let you know the nicest thing a person has called me in anger.


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