Monday, November 15, 2010

Don't Hate Me Because I am Blog-iful

<<< Kelly Le Brock, how could we hate you when you gave us luxurious Pantene hair AND "Weird Science"???
And now a string of seemingly unrelated stories ...
-- I hate memoirs. No matter how well-written, how riveting, by the time I am halfway through I am hating on the author. Come on, to be so filled with thoughts about oneself that you write an entire book? I was taught that was "bragging" or at least "acting hot-shot." Seriously it doesn't matter who wrote it -- I start feeling that way. After four chapters of reading about a nun who served with Mother Teresa in Calcutta all I can think is, 'on and on with leprosy, at least you got to travel.'
-- Ichsnay on the Talkie-Talkersons. I took a class my freshman year of college entitled, "Ethics in Society."  I remember only a few things from the class. One is the girl next to me with the folder displaying "Ethnics in Society" in extra-wide Sharpie marker. She either never realized the difference between ethics and ethnics or did but wasn't embarrassed about the misunderstanding.
Secondly, I remember a girl. Let's call her "Liz". That was actually her name, I can't come up with her last name but I vividly recall her glinty eyes and unusually big hands which gesticulated wildly as she talked. And talked, and talked, and talked. She was smarter, louder, and way more aggressive than the rest of us. Incidentally, she really hated me. It might have been because at 18 I didn't know my Bosnia from my Herzegovina or because I have lady-like hands and a sunny disposition. Her constant narration and cool, edgy devil's advocate-style was actually painful. Sort of like a constant assault. You get my point. And if you don't, because really who would ... stay tuned.
Apocalypse Now. When I was a kid I thought that if two people, any two people, ended up being the last two people on earth they would get to know each other well enough that eventually they would really love each other. As an adult I came to think that if two people, any two people, ended up being the last two people on earth that would get to know each other well enough that eventually they would really hate each other. My fantasy turned from one of discovered friendship to two people taking advantage of abandoned cityscapes to hide from one another. It seemed inevitable that after too much exposure to someone the flaws, idiosyncrasies, and crack pot opinions would just be too much.
<<< You can run but you can't hide, there is blogging even in the post-apocalyptic world (but I think Facebook bit it)!

All these things = too much exposure. Death (or dislike) by too much talking. I can just imagine the scenario in which I offend someone ...
"I was with her until she wrote that thing about man hands on a lady" ...
"Why does she always reference the apocalypse? It's so off-putting!"
"She sure uses a lot of extra punctuation, yo."
 ... and next thing you know people see me coming down the aisle at the grocery and duck around the corner to avoid eye contact.
You are not going to agree with me -- my own husband doesn't -- and moreover, I don't even agree with myself sometimes. I have mood-lability, I am impulsive, prone to fits of rage and passion, and tend to speak in hyperbole. Put that all together and you have the makings of, well, this blog.
I am not getting it exactly right, and by the nature of the blog beast, I am talking way too much (blogiful). But please don't avoid me. Because I believe, really believe, that we can save the world by relearning the lost art of civil discourse. When we model this for our children they come to see disagreement not as cause for polarization, hate, and red/blue divisions; but just as a fact of life and an opportunity for a peek at another point of view. 

So let me know what you think. Why do you think we so instinctively feel defensive when we disagree with someone? To what biology or aspect of human nature do you attribute this and how do you think it impacts your personal life and, on a macro-level, global politics? How is the art of civil discourse alive and well in your life?


  1. Ah, the ol' "You had me at hello... but then you kept talking."

    I, for one, (now you have me examining my love for the comma :)) think we do ourselves (and our children) a great disservice if we only stick with birds of a feather. Just because I don't agree with someone on every point, doesn't mean they don't have important things to say. And... (gasp!)... I could be wrong!

    The whole don't-talk-politics-and-religion-rule is intended to keep conversation nice and agreeable. (see Miss Manner's view on the subject here: Wimps, I say! When interaction is reduced to safe conversations about the weather, what's the point really? That's not real relating in my book. I want to know what makes someone tick and why they think the way they do. Even if I don't happen to agree. The only reason I would possibly need to feel threatened by that was if my own ego or social insecurities were ruling the roost. Oftentimes I've found people don't know why they think what they think, or aren't able to articulate it and that's when they kick into defensive mode.

    I have always been the sort that shares what I'm thinking and I try to do so in a manner that is respectful to those who might disagree, but it depends on the audience and venue too, I guess. I have dear family members that I love very much that do not believe in God. My faith is the center of my life. So do I try whack them over the head with a bible and hope some sinks in? Of course not. I respect them and I don't usually bring it up unless it comes up in conversation and I always try to be mindful to include "I believe...", every person has to make their own decisions on these important questions, not be told what they "should" think.

    Now, in a blog or any written communication, I think social "etiquette" shifts a little. Reading is a choice, so if someone disagrees or is offended, they can choose not to read anymore (as in your 1/2 read pile of memoirs). When I write, I share my heart and since I couldn't possibly predict the state of each heart that might read my thoughts, trying to tiptoe around offending anyone would be quite a minefield to navigate.

    I believe our egos and self-focus are at the center of this... our need to feel "right." Anything that threatens or brings that into question challenges us to consider: Are we really right? I personally welcome this challenge. Examination will either shed new light and help me see things from a more enlightened perspective, or further confirm that my current beliefs still resonate as truth in my core.

    I recently heard a great quote on our tendency to flock together with the like-minded: Like cow manure, when you keep a group together, piled on top of each other they start to stink. If you spread them around, they might actually do some good.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post Lesa! The next time I see you, I'll be checking out your feminine hands. :)

    :) anj

  2. Ahhh, the ego! I am starting to believe that the pesky ego is what it ALL boils down to the end. I have a great guest spot devoted to the subject matter next week. Seriously, why else we would feel so defensive? Disagreement threatens that all important sense of self.

    Your openness and curiosity are rarities and worth their weight in gold (which is selling quite high right now). Personally, I vacillate between being off-put by the inane and inauthentic niceties (so going to check out the ms. manners article) and the national compulsion to "take a position". But really, how can one go wrong if we have checked our ego at the door and are open and curious? Words to live by, that and the spreading manure thing. Your reflections are more than just reflections, it is actually a whole approach to disagreement and one I plan to seriously ponder. I wonder how much of my own inhibition and worry would disappear if I took this approach. Thank you!
    -Lady Hands Lesa

  3. PS-just read the Ms. Manners link. It is very worth the time. She seems to contradict herself in her final words to avoid the conversation, which perplexes me because she gives this fine advice..."Instead of civil conversation, discussion and debate we have wholesale denunciations and personal insults. Funny thing—it turns out that a real exchange of ideas and opinions is possible only under the rule of etiquette."

    I couldn't agree more! The problem isn't that we disagree, we just need to stop vilifying that, but HOW we do it. What if we all took the time and made the effort to enter into these kinds of well-mannered and appropriate discourses? I don't think I am being overly dramatic when I say the world needs us to do this. Reality tv, pundit tv, politics in general all confirms that we are ripe for a change. Hey, I just a flash of genius, what if I put together some kind of rally in Washington? I am going to call John Stewart right now...

  4. Well I'm not sure why we get so defensive when we disagree with someone. I have definitely noticed that people get ESPECIALLY defensive when the topic involves parenting decisions. Man alive! Opposing parenting decisions make people mean & divisive. Stay-at-home vs. working, boob vs. bottle, cry-it-out vs. attachment! I think we are all just trying to do the best we can with our own unique knowledge base. When we see someone doing something opposite of us we somehow take it personally and assume they think we are doing the "wrong" thing and thus our defense mechanisms kick in!

  5. The false dichotomy of right/wrong. As though we can't all be right (or all be wrong as the case may be). I wonder if feeling "wrong" activates some to have a shame response. Sometimes if someone's response (like mine for example) seems especially strong I try to have compassion because I wonder if that is the case. Good thoughts, but shouldn't you be cooking a turkey?

  6. I think people get defensive because they've built their whole lives on certain "truths." Of course, they aren't truths at all, but beliefs, but try to convince THEM. Unfortunately, even in the diverse world in which we live, we tend to be surrounded by those with similar beliefs and values. As children, we are surrounded by our parents and their family and friends who tend to all believe a certain way. As we grow up, we continue to be surrounded by the same basic "types" of people and their beliefs. As adults, most choose to base their lives on these beliefs, so if another argues a different point of view, they are challenging everything--from birth!

    Some of us have had the opportunity to meet people from all different walks of life with very different beliefs and values. This allowed us to see that our way is not the only way. I became very "open" to various religions because of a unique set of circumstances. First, my parents were divorced, and my mom was a practicing Methodist, and my dad was a practicing Catholic. Then, I became close friends with a girl in my high school, who happened to be brought up as a Jehovah's Witness. When she first explained some of her beliefs, I thought she was a nut! Then, I met someone who was Mormon, and learned more about what he believed. All of these experiences got me to thinking--how can Catholics celebrate with wine and Mormons think consumption of alcohol is inviting the devil into your body? How can Jehovah's Witnesses believe only a very few go to heaven? There were some MAJOR contradictions, yet they all had a pretty solid (and similar) base.

    They can't all be right--and (light bulb moment!) they can't all be wrong. And if religion/spirituality has some wiggle room, what doesn't?????

    I feel very fortunate that I had those experiences, especially coming from such a rural area. At a very young age I discovered no one has to be right or wrong, you just have to be true to yourself. I have always believed that, and it has served me well.

  7. But it wasn't just that you had those experiences...during a lifetime many people probably encounter at least some diversity in religious practices, it was your approach to them that is so interesting and ultimately so profound for you. It makes me wonder if there is something that predisposes people toward openness and curiosity or if we are naturally more inclined to the latter and simply must cultivate the former?

  8. Very eloquently stated, Shellody! "At a very young age I discovered no one has to be right or wrong, you just have to be true to yourself." I love that and making that my new mantra! :)

  9. :) Taratart, glad I could be of service ;)

    I do think most people encounter some diversity, but I think they often don't experience extremes in diversity (not that I really think my experience was extreme, but complex). That combined with the timing of my experiences was crucial. Since I was in my teens when I befriended a Jehovah's Witness AND when I met the gentleman who was Mormon, I believe I was more prone to dropping all I had accepted as normal for something that wasn't (honestly, that's about as much rebellion as I could muster at that time)...And the more I think about it, I do think the whole Catholic church one weekend and Methodist the next might have had a really big impact.

    I'd love to say that it's how I was raised, and that my parents were fantastic role models in this area. If I did say that, it'd keep with the theme we've established. Unfortunately, I'd be lying! My parents are NOT open-minded and accepting of different peoples and ideas. (They watch (gulp) FOX NEWS as if it were a evangelical broadcast!) I'll be honest, I cannot talk politics with them, and that feeling is reciprocated. We've agreed (not really) to disagree.

    So, maybe they did have an influence--I know they are good, decent people, and I love them very much...even if they are...different ;)

    As for your question, I do think some of it may be in our DNA, some people are predisposed to being more accepting, more open to discussion. It's just part of who "we" are. I also think there is a generational component as our generation is more likely to experience diversity (more travel, etc), and are less likely to be enmeshed in our beliefs (some would argue that's because we aren't on as solid of a foundation as generations before us, but I disagree). In the end, I think we can all learn to be more open and accepting regardless of where we fall on the curiosity/openness spectrum. I really don't believe anything is purely nature or nurture, just some wild combination of both.


Related Posts with Thumbnails