For the third night in a row, I found myself in my unofficial spot in my buddy’s basement, engaged in a heated debate with four of my best friends. On this particular night, we’d covered everything from NFL playoff predictions to the existence of God. We normally called it a night around 1:00 or 1:30, but this time, it was well past 2:00. There was no beer, no looking at phones, no girls. Just five dudes hashing out their opinions.
I’ve sat in that same recliner arguing dozens of times. Every time I get up to drive home, I feel exhausted. Yeah, it could be because it’s normally after midnight. But I think it’s because debating a variety of topics for hours at a time takes a tremendous toll on the human mind.
I believe that the ability that we possess to debate is one of life’s most valuable gifts. There’s nothing I can compare to a long string of logical, well thought out arguments between a group of individuals all seeking the truth. I seriously can’t think of anything comparable.
A debate isn’t meant to be lost or won. A debate isn’t a contest. It’s an honest presentation of one’s perceptions and convictions on a given issue meant to compete with another’s on the way to truth. The only way to lose is by not listening to who you’re debating with. I mean, I think this definition is damn near universal. That’s my take on it, at least.
But, the more I think about it, the more valuable the art appears to be. To me, debate shows us that we’re all mortal. None of us will ever be 100% on any issue, and debate reminds us to hold our pride in check. It’s also a reminder that truth – whatever or whomever that may be – is out there and has been for at least as long as humans have. If done correctly, it can piss people off or shut people up in a matter of seconds. Nothing else in this world possesses that capability. Well, maybe taking out a gun, but that’s another issue.
But perhaps the most beautiful thing about debate is that it can’t be written, recorded or watched. If it is, it can’t be called a debate. Presidential candidates hack out opinions for voters and money not truth. High school debate teams prepare arguments for days, even weeks, to try and win recognition and trophies. Pure debate is spontaneous, meticulous, and honest, just like Socrates said it should be. We only lose by not thinking or not listening.
I consider myself lucky every single day that I have a group of friends willing to engage in such thoughtful conversations with me. Friends that are willing to listen, and expect the same from me. Friends that seek truth right alongside of me. As Albus Dumbledore puts it, “Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic — capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” Words are and will forever remain our magic spells, and debate the wand from which they’re cast. This I believe.