Monday, May 22, 2006


Last night, just for fun, curious to see if I'd get any response, and hoping for conversation, I posted a series of entries ending with the invitation "discuss." I didn't have any high expectations, but I thought, "What the heck?"

Only "Art In Question (I)" drew a comment--and that was essentially about me and where I'd gone wrong in framing the post to begin with and how I wasn't being "terribly helpful."

To which I replied:

I was presenting for discussion a point of view that I've seen bandied about, the conflation to which you refer being inherent to the tendency about which I was inviting a conversation.

I EMPHATICALLY do not agree with that point of view and do understand both the metaphors and definitions involved. It's why I brought the topic up; I thought it would be an interesting discussion.

Is it simply impossible for me to post a catalyst for discussion without necessarily being accused of harboring certain misconceptions, taking a particular position, or assigning certain values?

I was simply posing a proposition--though admittedly not in the formal way, as per "Firing Line," for example--in hopes of starting an interesting conversation.

This is so discouraging, and even depressing. One reaction, and it's this.

I'd add "(the ill-informed, wrong one, natch!)" after "particular position" above, if I were writing it again.

You know, I grew up at time and in places and in a milieu where one discussed to learn, to work out one's own reactions, and to address ideas, issues and concepts that didn't necessarily come up in daily life. Someone--at first in my family, later among my friends--would toss out a proposition or topic, or muse aloud in process of thinking about something--and off we'd go. For fun, for illumination. And it was fun, and it was illuminating. It was about the ideas, their implications, their permutations, the process of the exploration itself and so forth. Discussions were often passionate, even sometimes heated, but there was also a certain charitable spirit about them, a respect for the intentions of the people involved and the process itself. There was even a certain toleration for imperfectly presented starting-point propositions, because part of the point was to better refine those very propositions, not just stake out polarized positions.

Times change. People get busy. People move. Choices are made; consequences ensue. One finds oneself in completely different places, times and contexts. That's life, and I accept that; there are compensations and advantages in every stage or phase. Still, certain basic leanings and yearnings don't simply evaporate. One misses what one misses; the heart wants what it wants.

One of the reasons I started blogging was in hopes of eventually getting to the point where I could find like-minded people, who by definition were already making time for dialogue and discussion. To make an obvious point, because of its nature, the internet doesn't limit the universe of potential journey-mates (I was going to use "fellow-travelers," but that's too loaded of a term) to specific circumstances and physical locations, or mere happenstance.

I didn't want it to be just about the politics or one-upmanship, or only about current events (do I have to say that I know I'm guilty as well of the implications contained in what I just keyboarded? I assume so, and so I will, willingly), at least not all of the time. Once in a while, I thought I could toss out a notion and see if anyone was interested. If no one is, of course that's disappointing, but so be it.

What mutates "disappointing" into discouraging is the immediate move to the personal, whether reflexive, to forestall discussion, or simply to put down the effort, however feeble, or me, for having made it. I don't mean that as an attack on the particular commenter at all, but rather as a description of how it made me feel. Which is small, stupid and foolish.

We talk a lot about civility, here in the blog world, its relative merits, limitations and demerits. Perhaps we're having the wrong conversation, or, at least, too limited of one.

Maybe what we should be discussing is a lack of, or too limited, generosity of spirit and/or charitability of mind on many, if not all, of our parts. Sometimes (frequently? how frequently?) those qualities make no sense and are simply beside the point, I know.

But should the latter automatically be the default mode? Or the other?

Only askin'... .

Update: Yes, this has been modified slightly from the original, not just to correct typos or grammar etc. (which I feel no obligation to announce), but to add a few words for clarification (which I do feel such obligation, depending on the circumstances and what's involved).