Thursday, July 28, 2011

DEJA BROOM: Debatable Intelligence

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem

I believe 95% of people come to blogs, online forums and chat groups to learn from each other.
Yes, we do get that small percentage of folks that come looking to get their ego stroked as if they are reincarnations of Merlin or Gandalf, Morgan le Fay or Glinda the Good witch. We do get those who want pity for their self-imposed victimhood, or those who want to make a buck off somebody buying their spells, online books, phone tarot readings or emailed sparkly doo-dads with crystals attached.
But pretty much the rest of us are here to exchange info and trade resources.  Young and old, new and seasoned....I don’t believe that the majority of people here in internet-land are attending merely to brow-beat and argue without purpose.

 The issue is that, I suspect, some folks who are not cemented with a firm footing in their own beliefs and understandings tend to mistake every dissention to their opinions to be a hostile attack from others.
Rather than seeing such things as an opportunity to scrutinize what they hold as a personal belief so that they may measure and weigh and test it to make sure it fit in a real scope...those who aren’t self-assured and actually practiced in their theories take any challenge on as a though it were the other party being mean, being needlessly abrasive.
To these folks I say: A challenge is not necessarily a conflict! An alternate view is not necessarily a threat! It is an opportunity to LEARN SOMETHING!!

If you hold a theory or opinion solely because you “just feel it to be true” and you haven’t road-tested it in practice….and then you are confronted by someone who challenges you and says they have road-tested such a theory and developed an alternate understanding about how realistic and practical and useful it is…..then yeah, you’re likely to feel like the other person isn’t being nice because they don’t just believe you because you say so.
In the end, it isn't about "the feeling that something is true" but the ability to prove it.
The proof must come from one's direct experience, and it is through experience that we can form an educated opinion. This educated opinion then, may be replicated by others, when they too take your same experience data and try it for themselves to reach the same conclusions you do.
This is what translates into provenance of factual data and historic reference.

If, however, the only "proof" one can provide for their theory or opinion when being given a challenge by others is "well...because it is my clever theory and I just feel it, ok?" Then that’s when the challenging opinion will cite evidence for why their theory is more appropriate.....when the other party produces factual-based evidence to the contrary.

Challengers won’t just say "I'm right, you're wrong, so deal with it!"...but if you take a deep breath and read carefully their responses without being immediately defensive, you too may see that YOU are the one who needs to step back and empathize. Test drive that opposing view and see how things look from that vantage point.
Now go back to your original theory that you just “felt” was true. Does your original opinion still hold water? Can you come up with justifiable, concrete evidence to counter this opposition and cite factual references beyond "well I just feel it?" as your reasoning?
At this crux, when opposing sides are engaged in a debate, that is when it is the mature tact to shut the hell up and listen. To see if there is a flaw in the logic being employed somewhere. To see if there was a miscalculation in the conclusions being drawn...or if logic was omitted entirely.
There is room for skepticism and fact in the Craft. Ours is not a religious persuasion rooted in dogma and scripture….ours is a founded in PRACTICE and the RESULTS achieved from the PRACTICE.
This is why it is a remarkably mature thing to do to sit back and be open to listening to others when they challenge you. Rather than being defensive and angered by someone questioning you, it takes strength to let your ego move out of the way so you can just allow the other opinions to come before you to be investigated further.....because you may find that what you held as truth may not be accurate after all.....or, you may find the means to gently explain to the opposition where their theory went awry.
You cannot accomplish intelligent debate through name-calling. Telling someone they are judgmental and short-sighted and stubborn and snobby and elitist and rigid and obsolete IS NAMECALLING.
You cannot win over the hearts and minds of others by "taking your conversation ball and going home" either. Doing the dramatic display of saying how everyone else is so close-minded and mean and then shutting down the conversation or deleting it is tantamount to throwing a tantrum and sticking your fingers in your ears.
No one can grow or modify or expand their understandings ….or to strengthen the resolve of their theories unless they have them challenged occasionally to see if they still hold true.

I've had plenty of pet theories of my own over the years, and been shown alternate viewpoints to them. The difference is, rather than dig in my heels and get defensive, I have learned to take a deep breath to squelch my inner warrior and now stop to listen and reconsider. To weigh the new info against my theory and see if my theory is still applicable. We all should reserve the right to augment, adapt or wholly change/rescind our latest theory based upon the new evidence and perspectives.
The most any of us sharing in this forum can hope for is that we come into occasional contact with folks we can relate to, whose opinions we respect even if we don't follow them all ourselves. The hope is that we are each adult enough to say, "Hmmm....I never tried that idea before, never considered things from that point of view, and so I'll have to take what you are saying under consideration."
At one time or other, every "truth" has been challenged.  The Earth was once thought to be flat. The Sun was thought to go around the Earth.
If it weren't for the light of new evidence, new expressions wrought with new facts shared, we’d still believe those things. That we have grown and shared and altered our perspectives, we have new theories today to believe and understand as truth.
Everyone has pet theories. And you know what? That is ok. You are still, despite the dissenting comments, entitled to hold to your opinion.

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