I imagined a circular conversation this morning. It sums up the frustration I have with people who seem to ask questions hoping to find specific conclusions rather than having a fruitful inquiry. They aren’t as concerned with the initial topic as they are with battling your answer. The conversations of this type go ‘off the rail’ every time. The first inquiry is always lost or mischaracterized.
Q: If you had to choose, which do you like better, cats or dogs?
A: Well, they’re very different but if I had to choose it would be cats.
Q: But you have only dogs. How can you be a “cat person”?
A: I didn’t claim to be a “cat person”. I think cats are cool, that’s all.
Q: But you used to have cats. Don’t you like your dogs?
A: I love my dogs very much. I loved my cats too.
Q: But you chose cats over dogs. Are you being serious?
A: I’m quite serious.
Q: When you had cats, were you happier?
A: No. What’s the matter with you?
Q: Why are you attacking me now? I just asked a question.
A: I’m not attacking you, I’m just not sure these questions make sense.
Q: Well, you raised your voice a little bit. Can’t you answer a simple question without hostility?
A: Okay. I answered your question. I prefer cats.
Q: Maybe you should get rid of your dogs if you don’t like dogs?
A: I never said that I DON’T LIKE DOGS!!
Q: I’m not going to talk to you anymore. You’re mean.
That is where many conversations go these days. This is an example of “Why is it sometimes hard to talk to people?”. I’m not as much of a fan of talking to random people anymore especially on controversial topics. Many are more interested in reaching their own conclusions rather than learning anything. LOL Heaven help us.
There’s an interesting prompt in another thread. It pertains to the use of ‘sarcasm’. I like that prompt but the person offering it proposed that sarcasm was akin to negativity.
My first thought was “Really? How could something so much fun and humorous be a bastion of negativity?” It was then I realized that the bias of that presentation was just a personal sensibility. No harm, no foul, of course. We’re allowed personal viewpoints. The creepy part is that some people frame their views as absolute, inarguable, truths. Do they believe that or are they just being a bit inartful? It’s hard to tell. I’m not a ‘mind reader’.
That whole thought process made me continue to examine the propensity of human beings to define the ‘world’ according to their personal sensibilities. I think the leadership of the U.S. have on many unfortunate occasions decided to impose American values on other cultures. I believe many times (not all) it came from an altruistic arrogance on the premise that we had found the ‘correct’ course and assumed the role as a ‘teacher’ to all humanity. Well, if countries do that, I’m sure individuals are capable of that approach too. Reagan’s “Shining City on the Hill” speech may have been the best way to ‘teach’… by example. “Because I say so.” is a poorer way to influence others than “Look at how well I’ve done.” As we learn, any lessons we have to offer are clear from our successes or failures. [Our current predicaments are attributable IMHO to an outrageous disregard for our Constitution which had made our prosperous progress possible. When will we (our leadership) learn?]
Expanding the stream of consciousness brought me to the broadest question, “Do we exist to learn or to teach?”
As a self-described ‘student of life’, my tendency is to want to learn. You’ve already noticed that I enjoy asking questions. But there is a ‘teacher’ in each of us too. Especially those who are parents and mentors of children.
I had to laugh during a recent vacation day spent with my granddaughter and a day care friend. We humorously caught on to a theme that developed quickly as we visited. There was a lesson in every topic I proposed! We got to the point when I said something we’d chime, “Here comes the lesson!” LOL
Yes, I wanted to ‘teach’ the kids. But the manner I chose wasn’t at all in the form of a lecture. It could be better described as a series of “Let’s think about that together.” moments. I told stories about difficult situations I had been confronted with in my life then invited them to examine “Why?” I made my decisions and “If?” they would have decided the same. I didn’t impose my values; I showed the kids how I had applied them. A few times, I asked their opinions on whether I may have been wrong. I truly wanted their opinion!
So, I did assume a ‘teaching’ role, but my lessons were to be found in an uncertain ‘testing’ of my values. I had remained primarily a ‘student’. IMHO… if more of us asked questions and perceived ourselves as fellow ‘students’, there would be far fewer righteous judgements (conclusions) made and more questions asked. By reading the comments on the ‘biased’ prompt that I opened with, it appears to me that some ‘adults’ think their roles in this life are primarily as ‘teachers’ of how others should behave. It’s curiously always implied that ‘decency‘ depends on their ‘rules’ too. [I’m starting to imagine that the ubiquitous concerns over “bullying” have given them this authority in their own minds. To that I would ask which mimics ‘bullying’ more? Telling others “How they should behave.” or asking “Why they behave the way they do?”]
It just occurred to me that my interest in writing stories and poems comes directly from my desire to offer my viewpoint for others to consider and learn from for better or worse. They are still free to decide. Freedom is awesome!
Offering a stream of consciousness, is a way to ‘rope’ others into a small segment of our thought process. I can’t speak for anyone else but mine is wild and messy. Have you ever asked someone, “What are you thinking about?” and been told, “Nothing.”? I’d guess many times that’s a ballpark generic answer in an effort not to have to explain just like our inclination to answer the question “How are you?” with “Fine.”. But sometimes, I wonder if not having anything on your mind is truly possible? It isn’t for me but how would I know how the mind of others work. When I’m mowing my lawn, washing dishes, or listening to the radio, there’s always something on my mind. It may only be the appreciation for a favorite tune or what I’ll make for supper, but I never feel a ‘blank’. This leads me to ask if everyone experiences an ongoing internal dialog with themselves, especially on complex ideas. I do. Questioning myself is a big part of it too. I find this topic fascinating because it’s one of many things each of us can never know. Can anyone know if the taste in their own mouth is the exact same taste for another person? We know our favoring of tastes is different but experiencing the taste and what makes a person favor it or not, isn’t possible. That’s a cool concept but also frustrating for those who are hopelessly curious. Drawing this to a conclusion comes down to my personal realization of how infrequently ‘we humans’ can be certain of anything. We know our senses can fool us, we’ve become alarmingly aware that other humans we give the title of ‘expert’ can’t be sure, and our dear parents aren’t any more able to be unbiased or certain, than we. In no way does that mean that nothing is real or true. This is more of a warning to never stop revisiting those foundations before we assess other things, just like keeping an eye on the sturdiness of that stepladder you’re climbing. Truth comes tumbling down if you don’t or possibly, you’ll end up dangling in a misty ‘nowhere’ land of self-serving definitions and facts. (Hint: Just because a large number of people say they know ‘the truth’ doesn’t mean that they do. You need to pursue it for yourself.) Thinking critically, and constantly challenging our own conclusions, seems all we can do in order to pursue truth and stay intellectually honest and open-minded. Have a great weekend and keep thinking!
If I could influence the world, I’d give everyone the ability to float above the constant barrage of smaller details, conflicts, crises, to ‘see’ the Big Picture of forces in this world. By Big Picture I mean, the possible consequences and the baseline importance of actions and their long-term implications. The only way this is accomplished is by being that little kid who answers every explanation with “Why?”. Have you noticed how difficult it is to ask questions these days? That discomfort makes me immediately ask “Why?” “Why are you mad that I ask questions? “. “Why are you calling me a ‘conspiracy theorist’ when I examine stuff more closely than you?” “Are you suggesting conspiracies don’t exist? or are you telling me that your certainty is all I need? or are you lacking imagination and don’t understand the need for questions?” “Why?” “How would conspiracies ever be discovered if people couldn’t or wouldn’t imagine them?” “If you won’t talk to me, and share your ideas, how will I figure things out?” “Do you think I want bad things to happen or am I ruining your too busy day?” “Why?” Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” “Isn’t that the definition of the “Big Picture”? “Doesn’t that mean the details are not as good as a broad understanding?” “How can people understand without asking questions?” “Why shouldn’t I ask them?” “Why are some people packaged and dismissed for superficial reasons like race, political affiliation, and length of schooling?” “Aren’t we all people?” “Don’t we all have brains and concerns and value?” “Why are my questions less important than your conclusions?” “Why?” IMHO- the name calling and labeling of people for their ideas and questions should stop. The people, who do that, are just creating, and dwelling upon, distracting details and holding us all back from understanding. We’re all in this together folks. ❤
I love exchanging ideas, thoughts, and opinions with people! The absolute most useful question is, “Can you explain why or how you developed that idea?”. Nowadays, it seems that that question is considered as an ‘assault’ or ‘insult’ to many.
Read it again, and ask yourself, if there’s anything wrong or dangerous about the question?
Yet, that question separates the intellectually honest from ‘immature’ actors.
If that question, elicits a compilation of links and YouTube videos, you may just want to graciously move on. The person obviously hasn’t thought about the concept enough to use his/her own words. If that question, elicits an opinion portrayed as a fact, moving on is also recommended. Opinions are good but have little value in critical analysis. And, if the question, elicits a challenge to your intelligence or integrity rather than any rational ‘ideas’ in the person’s own words, move on immediately.
The best method in conversation is to always explain what YOU believe and avoid telling others, what THEY should believe. (Actually, if you think you’re (or anyone else) is the authority on what every person should think, you’re automatically too immature to have an ‘adult’ exchange with.) The second method, is to find samples of things that they’ve said that make sense and tell them you agree. Even if you think their premises are flawed, make an effort to tell them “You’re not alone in that.” or “I know many other intelligent people who say that.”. Then, offer your oppositional facts or opinions. At this point, the ‘adults’ will wonder about your evidence. The immature will likely talk about ‘information sources’ or say “get educated”. You likely should tell them “Have a nice day.” and save your breath. Being called ‘stupid’ ruins any ‘adult’ conversation. Be advised, ending the discussion is what many ‘immature’ intellects actual want. They enjoy whatever conclusions they have made and find questions uncomfortable.
Obviously, the best sign of intellectual honesty is an absolute willingness to amend your opinions based on well presented arguments and new factual information. Anyone who suggests “I’m correct and you’re not.” doesn’t have enough integrity and humility to talk with.
We used to have debate assignments in grade school. That was an excellent training for making well-thought arguments. I don’t believe that the public schools teach that any longer. Sadly, the number of ‘adult’ conversations have suffered for that. I only know a handful of people who realize that disagreeing is not an assault but a request for more conversation.
I really want to know what others’ think. It helps me challenge and amend how I think. Testing our opinions either makes them stronger or makes us change them. There is no place for conclusions in Science or Public Opinion. IMO… we’ll remain hopelessly divided until people, in general, ‘grow up’. I’m not holding my breath but have learned how to save it. 😉
Since so many other online writers have blogs dedicated to their writings, I’ve decided to jump onto the bandwagon. All posts published here will be either fiction or poetry, some new, and some previously published on various places on the Internet. Some of my works are conventional, and some are quirky. All fiction posted here, except for fan fiction, will include the letters "rose" somewhere, as a tribute to my Baba.