Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Argument versus Reconciliation

Originally posted on August 14, 2011

My dear wife Allee and I have some of our greatest enjoyment in talking deeply. Rather than arguing, we listen and then try to not only understand, but express in terms of what the other might be thinking and feeling. We explored two key archetypes last night: I realized I’m settled into a sense that the cosmos is “becoming” and I feel honored in thinking that I may be helping in however tiny a fashion. This is both important and satisfying to me. Allee finds this annoying, but only insofar as it carries the 20th century spirit of argumentation—i.e., that better truths “win” over the not-as-good truths.

Allee’s archetype, though, is for her every bit as valid. For her, the moment of kindness, alignment, the little things that need not prove anything, lead to anything, have further implications, require rational linkages to longer-term practical applications—none of that is needed. Goodness in the Now is fine. Considering her background and temperament, I was able to empathize accurately by taking her role and asking her to give feedback-guidance.

But for me, I was also right. Working from a psychological foundation, my right was neither better nor worse than hers. Our differences arose from different core archetypes. It was humbling at a meta-level to realize that two people who deeply loved and appreciated each other, were deeply compatible, still could operate out of two different archetypes. This further fit a brief article we read last night that similarly acknowledged the fruitlessness of argumentation, titled “Irrationality and Human Nature,” (pp. 144-146) by Prof. Lee Silver, in a thought-provoking anthology titled What Have You Changed Your Mind About? Published by the Edge group.

The article still harbored the 20th century idea that pure rationality is the highest good. He despaired of ever changing others’ minds, though. But I propose that he was mistaken in assuming that rationality is a supreme criterion. Others have other values that are non-rational and these may trump rationality. This is what I mean by archetypal.

Also, in checking out the “Edge” website , I read this little bit:  “When thinking changes your mind, that’s philosophy. When God changes your mind, that’s faith. When facts change your mind, that’s science.” . . .      I might add provisionally, “When psychology changes your mind—I don’t know, sort of maturity, humility, understanding, a bit of philosophy, the awareness of the limitations of mind, and a corresponding sense of it being more important to get along?

Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow tour the country and speak about the Great Story. I think they’re wonderful! Michael talks about “night language” and “day language,” the former being more mythic and poetic. I can relate, as I’ve become aware of a goodly number of deeply held values that are not fundamentally rational—love being one, “cute” being another, the aesthetics of poetry, humor, and other elements continuing this.

The 20th century world-view supported the idea that there is an identifiable truth that in theory, at least, can be attained. I no longer believe this. I think the mind weaves complex rationalizations for basic archetypes that operate deep in the psyche. What is true for one may not be true for another, and, indeed, considering that each truth, each meaning of a key word, is linked to thousands of associations, each of which are colored and weighted in scores of different ways, it becomes apparent to me that no two people can exactly mean the same thing.

I realized again that even if I had the most devoted disciple, and even if I had taught him or her well all I knew, and if s/he had fully accepted everything I said, wrote it down, studied it…I think the following scene would be probable: Several years later, I come and sit in the back of the great hall where my one-time disciple is lecturing on Blatner-ism and all I hold dear—explaining my philosophy of life. I realize that I would be cringing, because my faithful, loyal disciple—in all sincerity and with the highest of motives— has inserted nuances, subtle twists, ways of saying things that communicate something other than what I had taught, that I had intended! Yikes!  (And also laughter and letting go.)

This thought-experiment is meant to illustrate the point of this essay in a spirit of tolerant bemusement. I have come to think that it’s not our theories, anyway, not the contents of what we believe. Of course there is some value, certain ideas can stimulate other ideas. But selling a tight philosophy of life? Nah. But then what could be more important?

What is more important is working stuff out; realizing that full unanimity is truly impossible, and compromises over preferences, weightings of meanings of words, implications of how much and in which way we would act differently—all these can and should be negotiated when collaboration is needed, or allowed to flow unimpeded when individual expression is all that’s up.

What’s changed for me is the 20th century prejudice that truth can be determined by evidence and even the most civil types of argumentation. Some truth-development processes do evolve that way—in science, especially. But other processes that deal with family life and politics and spirituality and so forth evolve better through a spirit of love, of wanting to bring others forth and  live in harmony. If they’re not actively hurting you or others by their beliefs, I’m inclined to let it go and find ways of enjoying each others’ company. Sometimes this may involve our meeting only in roles or activities in which our differences of sensibility or opinion don’t matter, and in such settings, it’s rude—and fruitless—to bring up our points of difference.

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