argument

There is a question in my life that keeps consistently coming back to haunt me. That question — always a product of much existential pain — demands a very simple choice from me: shall I talk or shall I fully embrace the solitude of silence?

It’s difficult to paint the full picture of the world — my world! — which keeps me repeatedly wishing to disengage and simply let the world go. But I shall try nonetheless. At the very least, it might help me clarify my feelings better.

The Rancor

Some of the more highly idealist people frequently ask: is it not painfully frustrating how divided the world is? Why can’t we just love each other? Why can’t we all forego our differences?

It is a natural reaction against the conflict in the world. I used to have it too. I wished for some sort of final agreement which would put the rancor to an end and let us love each other.

Then, gradually, I grew up. I matured a bit. In the process, I began to see that disagreement was unavoidable — people’s experiences  and interpretations thereof could never align completely. And there was no need to, anyway. Different perspectives are an asset not a liability.

Yet, I began to see something else too. Even if homogeneity and agreement were impossible and even undesirable, that still didn’t justify the world as it is. The conflict, the wars, the disagreements over politics, religion, and everything else — these were more than mere intellectual disagreements. They were not driven by curiosity. Nor were they pursued in good faith. No one loses friends over curiosity. But I’ve lost friends over politics and ideology… and not in a gradual losing-common-interests kind of way, but in a off-to-the-gulags kind of one . Continue reading Is Speaking Even Worth It Anymore?

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A woman yelling

Years ago, I attended a week-long summer camp for high school students with deep intellectual and artistic interests.  

Every morning, the host organization’s leader would make us go out in the yard, run a bit and then sing the national anthem. Sometimes, if we hadn’t followed all instructions the day before, we would have to run a bit longer. At other times, like when we went out hiking, some of us might get shouted at or be given a lecture about military discipline. At yet other times, we would be instructed about morality or reprimanded for basically being teenagers.

Now, the exercise of this kind of strict authority annoyed me to a great extent. If the camp leader had been in the military (the draft being mandatory for his generation) we, on the other hand, had not. Why then submit us, the high school students, to the same kind of rules and discipline that men fighting for their lives have to live under in order to survive?

I did not always agree with the approach nor the reasoning behind it. There is a particular way in which men involved in the military end up. It makes them seek and require of others almost complete control over the smallest of details. Often, the result is an overly rigid and conservative worldview that sees deviations from tradition as a prelude to chaos. Naturally, this kind of approach was bound to rough up some feathers with a group of teenagers, including me.

Yet, by the end of the camp I ended up having huge respect for the camp leader. I had not changed my mind much. I still did not see the point in his unnecessary rigidity. However, there was a something alluring about his conviction. There was a lesson in the way he acted and thought even if I ultimately disagreed with him.

To be fair, to say I simply disagreed is to leave out the emotional side of the interaction. Indeed, not only did I disagree, I was also furious inside. There were many time where I simply felt fed up with the whole ordeal.

Nonetheless, I kept listening and tried to stop emotions from clouding my judgement. As long as I could see a point in the camp leader’s behavior, I tried to learn from him. And exactly because I was aware of my emotions, I forced myself to look for a point in his behavior twice as hard as normal. Eventually, I came to see that he had his own point of view and principles behind it. That, I could respect.

***

Sadly, today the new normal for emotionally charged conversations is to be offended and try to shut down any further communication. Instead of a warning in the service of greater attention to the other, anger has turned into an excuse to deny all attention whatsoever. 

Far from a mere assault on curiosity, such attitude towards emotionally charged disagreement is also a conscious choice of division among us.  Continue reading The Anger is Why You Have to Listen

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