There are moments when a very intelligent person has carefully considered all the evidence and forms a conclusion on almost any matter large or small. Then, somehow, in order to preserve sanity and have room for the rest of life, this opinion is frozen forever. Not only frozen, but fiercely defended as truth, no matter what additional evidence may come to light.
Sometimes this fanaticism is apparent in the very young, overwhelmed by infinite choice. It can, of course, afflict anyone at any age, but such rigidity becomes a tragic mark of aging for a lot of us.
History is full of examples. The grand gestures are in science, war, and politics. But within families are frequent intergenerational conflicts. Old people know the right way; the young find it useless to their own lives.
Why people tend to become this way probably has a lot to do with simply trying to cope with everything. And one way to do this – especially with the bigger issues we can neither influence nor change – is to buttonhole all such into tiny rigid boxes with static response.
That in itself is fine. The terrible happens only when one of those imprisoned truths becomes a core principle of a fanatic’s life.