Good Reasons to Argue With Your Brother



Another 37, Day 24

“You just love to argue,” my brother yelled at me, his hands in the air. “You don’t even have a fucking point, you just want to be right.”

“No, I really do think exciting is the word to use here,” I said, in a voice that I’m going to assume was exactly as serene and collected as I remember it being.

“You think Lightning Crashes is exciting?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I do.”

We argued a lot, my brother and I. This particular argument was about the song Lightning Crashes, by 90s alternative band Live. I think they were my favorite group at that point, but I might have moved on by then. As you can tell, this was an important argument that was highly worth having. It started because he said something like, “It’s a fine song, but I wouldn’t exactly call it exciting.” I, of course, had to elucidate him just how wrong he was.

“It’s exciting because it starts out so quiet. So small. It implies that something dramatic is going to happen, but it doesn’t let you feel it. Not at first. It’s like the air before a storm, and the tension accumulates. It takes its time, starts to crescendo, and then finally explodes into action and consequence.”

I didn’t phrase any of it that well, of course. I didn’t even know what the word “crescendo” meant except in the broadest sense. This is all filtered through the lenses of both memory and fiction, which work together like a telescope to let you see things that are very far away.

“Fine,” he said. “Whatever. You just can’t let anything drop. You have to just pick apart everything I say.”

“I’m just making the point that you said it wasn’t exciting, and I think that excitement is one of its particular qualities.”

He said something like “argh!” Except people don’t really say that. But it gets the point across. He was getting very angry while I stayed calm. That meant I was winning. That attitude also meant that I was being an asshole, but it took me a long time to learn that particular lesson. I’ve only mostly learned it.

My brother and I had what had to be thousands of arguments over the years. This particular time I was about 18, although when I view it in my mind I’m much older than that. I’m an adult, and so is he. But it happened in his bedroom on the Cedar Avenue house, with its Insane Clown Posse posters and the schizophrenic graffiti from his friends scrawled across the angled ceiling. I was back from college for the summer, and he was still in high school. Roughly 150 million years ago. There may have been a plesiosaur.

We had a lot of arguments, but I remember this one for a very specific reason: I won. Not just then, of course. Not by a long shot. He probably said something like “fuck you” and stormed off. Which lacks verisimilitude because we were in his room, but if you went with me on the plesiosaur I’m going to assume your capitulation here.

It was a couple of years later, when we both really were adults. I was visiting home again. I can’t remember if this was before or after he took his trip travelling around Europe, staying in hostels and hooking up with exotic Swedish women. That’s something I always said I wanted to do, but I never would have. Not really.

“I’ve been listening to your music lately,” he told me. “The old CDs you had. Remember that conversation we had about Lightning Crashes?”

“Sort of.”

“You said it was an exciting song, and I said you were wrong.”

“Oh,” I said. “Right.”

“I’ve realized that you were right. The way it builds up and then launches into the important part. I’m not saying it’s my favorite song, but it is actually pretty exciting.”

My brother comes out the winner here, in this analysis. It’s not me for “winning” the argument. It’s him for allowing his view on something to evolve. And it always makes me think on why I’ve always loved to argue in the first place.

There are a couple of different reasons that people love to argue. Some people argue because they are unyielding in their viewpoints. Some people argue because they love the intellectual back and forth of discussion, and the puzzle-solving nature of debate. There’s definitely some of the latter, for me. But the main reason that I’ve always gotten into a lot of debates with people—and the Lightning Crashes argument is a perfect example—is because I love to examine things from every angle.

My brother and I got into a lot of arguments when we were little. My wife says that’s what we do when we get together, even today. We’re two clones with very different worldviews. His psychological flaw is that his view is too narrow; he sees things from the inside of his perspective and his opinions on the way the world works.

My flaw is exactly the opposite. I see far too many angles and elements of every situation, and I give them all equal weight. Even the irrelevant ones. It muddies up the waters of understanding. But it also means that with almost anything anyone says I can find something wrong. And not only find the mistake, but take it seriously. It will seems significant to me because every angle is significant.

I’ve gotten a lot better in my advancing years. I don’t argue nearly as often. It turns out that people don’t like it. But picking things apart, tearing them up into a million different perspectives that all feel equally valid, that is something that I still do.

I probably always will.


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