I am fortunate (#blessed?) to have the relationships that I do. To a great extent, even in disagreement, there is deep mutual respect and understanding. There are quiet paths, gently lit, which may be traveled with these friends and family, even if the echoes of strife and contentiousness can be heard nearby.
As an introvert, this is my chief desire; secondarily, I want to extend the conversation, to reach others with what I think is a message of hope. I want to bring – myself and others to carry – a light to the darkness of our contemporary rivalries and social warfare.
Naturally, when that happens, there is work to do. The global warming of the social climate (eh? eh?) fosters suspicion, trigger-quick stereotyping, a speak-first-and-pretend-to-listen-later mentality. Not all are this way; it has been my experience that when you bring someone else into the introvert’s den, they are almost always delightful to talk with. There is no audience to impress or appease, and still further, there is a willingness to admit that most beliefs are held provisionally.
Very good. This post (and series of posts, as the case may be) is meant to be a bridge, from the rancor to the reverie.
I’ll start with the words of a good friend which help form the bridge, paraphrased here: One can wrestle (even fight) with an idea, without fighting the person holding the idea.
This simply must be possible, and seems almost elementary. There are other versions – you can show respect (at least decency) toward other people, even if you don’t agree with the way they live their lives/raise their children/earn a living.
But this idea of fighting with an idea seems only too familiar – isn’t this what happens in politics/morality/religion/business? Yes, with an important distinction: Whenever you attack a person, you are no longer attacking an idea.
And so, I say, the current social climate is a violent one for persons, not ideas. In fact, there are all kinds of terrible ideas floating around (you might agree if we will avoid the details) and my contention is that they have survived because of a two-fold problem: First, we have been attacking persons, not those bad ideas.
Second, people have begun to put themselves between the attack and the idea, even identifying themselves with the idea. (Just think how many ways there are to “self-identify” in the blogosphere). This is a terrible mistake, for many reasons; I will give two.
A – It tends to presume certainty. And certainty by itself is not absolutely wrong (we can’t be certain that being certain is a bad idea), it is just difficult to uphold. Beyond the fact that you exist, what are you certain of? That’s not a rhetorical question, it’s where the discussion begins.
B – You are not an idea. Ideas are abstract – you are not. Ideas are units of thought – you are not. Ideas may be true or false – you simply exist, and there is no truth value to your being.
Yet, what we see are great numbers of people who shrink themselves into abstraction, and these abstractions, often, can only be held provisionally.
A facet of the hope I want to share is this: You can survive the death of your ideas. Indeed, this is a kind of death unto self, a dying to what one formerly identified as or with. It is liberty from the brute mastery of that oft-maligned, but still menacing enemy, the stereotype.