It might be tempting, exhilarating even, to invest in giving homophobes a piece of our mind. Give them a dose of what we think without regard for what they think. But this is often a recipe for disaster. More often than we might like (or have the patience to recognize), in efforts to forge understanding, the best thing to do is to get into the mind of those who might hate us. And fortunately for us there is a game which allows us to achieve just this pseudo-telepathic feat: Devil’s Advocate.
Dubbed Advocatus Diaboli in Latin, Devil’s Advocate was anything but a game. It was an official position in the Roman Catholic Church taken very seriously indeed. By the analysis of the Devil’s Advocate a person could be certified to be counted among heaven’s saints; it was the advocate’s job to dig up dirt – flaws in character – of a person who had been picked to become a saint.
The rest of us might never be called upon to sainthood but we can settle with an insight inherent in the church’s approach to tease out those worthy of admission into the best place imaginable: To have a chance at living our best lives, we must be willing to see the world through the lens of those who fail to have our best interest, our enemies.
There are some achievements that seem almost designed to distil within us a sense of bliss. And few rank higher than the project of (not proving ourselves right but) proving our adversaries wrong. It is easy to go through life thinking all that we know is all that there is. But playing the devil’s advocate offers a chance to enter into the minds of those we quickly dismiss as impenetrable and access views we quickly dismiss as unworthy of attention, all for that gift of bliss which comes in revealing the wrongness of those who oppose us.
Playing the game is simple. It involves trying as much as possible to view the world through the lens of the person who stands in staunch opposition to any of our held views. For example, we might say homosexuality is beautiful. The game requires that we suspend this view in favour of its opposite, homosexuality is ugly. And invest in seeing how this view might be the true depiction of reality.
Simple is not always the same as easy. Like any other game, devil’s advocate can present unique levels of difficulty. But any interest in a life worth living demands a willingness to accept that things are sometimes far from easy.
Sometimes we might find that our adversaries hold accurate views (and the possibility of this tends to keep us closed from investigating their views). But as the devil knows, interest in the wins of others is unworthy of concern. What matters is staying in their minds to access beliefs, if for nothing but the thrill of using what they think to show beyond any measurable doubt the wrongness of their views.