Queen of Cups with The Tower

imag1344.jpg
Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

Several days ago I decided to whack at a hornet’s nest with a pencil metaphorically. I climbed into the den of honey badgers otherwise known as the comments section on a political Facebook post. Armed with my chosen weapon of presumptuous arrogance I decided to adroitly illustrate the lack of compassion of the people who held a perspective in contrast to my own.

Somehow in my self-righteousness I forgot the adverse effect of telling a person who is politically moved that they don’t give one-tenth of one percent of a shit about people and their well being. Most people take a particular political, ethical, social, or moral stance on a matter because they believe their view aligns with what they believe is best for the society at large. So after shaking the hornet’s nest like a meth head with a Magic 8-Ball I watched what started out as what originally barely passed for a discussion disintegrate into my debate mate slinging poo ladened ad hominems like chimps behind bars.

Shy of imprisoned apes I cannot defend nor condone the hurling of misplaced epithets in the form of insults, derision, and name calling. Granted, I did shove my No. 2 pencil into the paper thin side of the hive. I made my statement, and as I firmly believe, no one says anything without an underlying intention. We choose the specific words we extricate from our minds with a specific purpose, with a desired effect. Often that effect is the intent to shape and contort the perspectives of other human beings to either match our own or to deter them from maintaining theirs. Our emotional fervent blinds us to the fact that we are running on the treadmill of futility.

My mother on many occasions would offer me morsels of sage advice based on her own experiences. She wanted to spare me from traversing the landscape of error-strewn regrets that she had stubbed her toe on along the path of her past. My father, on the other hand, never gave anything resembling advice that wasn’t wrapped in an off-colored joke. His philosophy was that mistakes were the great Socrates, that wisdom was most purely imparted through trials and tribulations, the semester’s final in the form of a hard knock from the school of the same name.

There’s a strangely beautiful balance in that approach to watching people walk toward the field of landmines. The danger of the protective coddling, repeated warnings, and the unending doling out of unsolicited advice is that it sends the message that we do not have faith or confidence in others we think are making mistakes in being able to learn from them. Our warnings on how wrong people are in their perspectives also renders us unable to recognize that their truths are valid for themselves, no matter how ludicrous they may seem to us.

At the same token to shrug and say let them learn the hard way does in no way shape or form let them know we care and that we are concerned for their future, their successful outcome, and their well being. While the parent of the Millennial approach of over protection and insulation sends the message of a lack of trust in their ability to survive mistakes, the throw them in the lake and they’ll learn to swim approach almost conveys an indifference to whether or not they survive.

Challenging another’s perspective or process is in essence the hostile form of giving unsolicited advice. When engaging in a sharing of personal or political or ethical opinions, we would do best to find the precise wording that conveys our perspective without condescending or attempting to invalidate the opinion of an opposing party. This provides those within earshot the choice to either bank or dismiss our opinions. Some lessons can only be learned through trial by fire. We must allow people to walk through the flames if this is what they choose and be there to help them heal on the other side.

Advertisements

Five of Wands with Two of Pentacles

Quantum Tarot (2.0) by Kay Stopforth and Chris Butler
Quantum Tarot (2.0) by Kay Stopforth and Chris Butler

One of the most tear-jerkingly beautiful aspects of the internet is the fact that it is a bastion of steadfast opinions and convictions. At any time when there’s that little argumentative tickle waving a feather across your uvula you can hop online, sling your bag of world view talking points over your shoulder, and wander the landscapes of Twitter and Facebook and the comment sections of blogs and articles to scatter your seeds of stalwart convictions on all things political, social, and ethical.

Where else can we dive into the deep end of dispute, armed with confirmation bias and an absence of eye contact, or even an ad hominem or the Godwin’s Law nuclear option in case our talking points turn to tissue paper, and walk away knowing we are right? What a fantastic venue social media and forum threads provide us for wiping away any niggling self-doubt we might hold toward our own personal convictions. If we can’t be troll slayers in our own right, we can be their king.

What about when we lose power to our house and we have a low battery warning flashing at us on our smart phone? Then what? Who do we argue with then?

Whenever we find ourselves having trouble making a decision, we are essentially in a heavy debate with ourselves. This lacks much of the satisfaction of debating with others; when we argue with other people we can simply glance at the cue card displaying the right buzzwords, memes, and pundit points and deliver them adroitly with a parenthetical so there! When we argue with ourselves, however, we either hold dearly to opposing ideals or wants, or there is no driving desire to nudge us toward a particular choice.

The irony here is that our ambivalence is fueled by the same Sterno that keeps our online contentions hot. It is less about having a need to be right and more about being afraid of being wrong. We juggle one option over another in fear of choosing the one that will send us down the well of wrongness, and we lack the self-trust to be able to climb out like the proverbial mule if we end up getting buried for dead.

If we can take ten steps beyond the myopia of the moment, we can see what lies beyond our indecision. Often it’s a matter of looking at the bigger view, at seeing our greatest goals even if they are seemingly unrelated to the bifurcated path we face, and working backwards to see which choice will take us in that direction. There may be something we need to give up in the short term that has contributed to our vacillation, but it is easier to surrender when we see the greater vision.

Interestingly, our ambivalence invariably comes from not knowing who we are rather than not knowing what we want. When we see ourselves from the perspective of who we are and who we want to be, the ability to move toward a given option becomes much clearer.

Five of Wands with The Hanged Man

Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche
Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

Have you read the news lately? Have you been on Facebook and Twitter? Have you recently participated in a Thanksgiving holiday?

If so, congratulations for being involved with, or at least bearing witness to, lots of conflict and controversy. Some current event seems to incite some willing participant to state or share or post some provocative comment, one with a parenthetically implied “In your face!” within its message.

I often wonder what the intention is when all the bravado is distilled out of these stated positions. Is it to brazenly declare one’s ethical or political position? Is it to serve as a polarized beacon intended to illuminate the pathway to our opinion for those who share our world view? Is it to stomp on the ant mound of those who disagree so we can watch them all scurry to the top in an attempt to rebuild their logic that was razed by the foot of an astutely delivered statement?

Personally, I believe it’s all about the conflict. These current events slap our psyches around, leaving us unsafe and insecure. They storm into our comfortable lair of complacency like a drunken angry stepfather at 3am, lifting us out of the cozy bed of our belief system, pummelling us with the idea that our society continues to be a frightening and dangerous place.

The next day we stomp into the schoolyard of our preferred social media outlet or family gathering, looking for that weak kid with the opposing ideology, snatching from him his right to see the world from his perspective, playing keepaway with our ideological allies, doing whatever we can to thrust onto him the mantle of victim that fell upon us when we were reminded that we live in a scary society.

When I watch these verbal badminton matches play out along the entrails of the comments in a Facebook status based on a display of political JPG wisdom, I don’t see a think tank. I don’t see an attempt at finding a common solution. I see a game of choosing up sides where each commenter hopes their hand reaches the top of the bat and can proclaim the title of the Giver of the Last Word.

Somehow we’ve developed some sort of social pathology that has us equating being safe with being right. As long as people hold an opposing viewpoint to our own we are at risk of becoming personally invalidated. It is often said that the truth always lies in the middle. This infers that as long as there are opposing viewpoints neither can wholly lay claim to what is right. In order for anyone to find the safest place to reside, the DMZ that exists between any two sides of conflict, we have to not only acknowledge that there are aspects of our ideologies that can in no way be valid for many others. We need to painfully and deliberately tear ourselves away from a perspective that has been carefully constructed over a lifetime, if only for a moment, to cognize the validity of the perspective that is furthest away from our own. Only then will we truly feel safe, as compassion has no sharp edges.