Monday, December 24, 2012

Perfectible

Most people have a personality that fits into one of three basic types. Our behavior, overall, suggests that we are withdrawn types, aggressive, or compliant types. For those familiar with the Enneagram, these three branch out into nine types. Within that framework are all the sub types and variations. That may or may not be true. In any event, I am a compliant type. I have difficulty saying no, I was a "good" boy as a child, and I do not welcome confrontation. On the Enneagram, I am a NINE. The Peacemaker... I can be indolent when most unproductive, or I can be a gifted negotiator when my behavior is in peak form...the healthiest. I like to think I'm fairly evolved, so my years have taught me a few things. As a compliant type, I can often see the reasonableness of both sides of an issue. If there are more than two sides, I can see that too. Because I tend to be a bit more emotional than most, when I argue fiercely for a point of view, it usually comes after I have carefully considered the other side. That's why I feel a bit dismayed when considering the raging dialogue about gun control, the right to own and bear arms, the care and treatment of those most vulnerable in our society, the continuing stigma of mental illness, and some of the proposed solutions to the recent spate of gun violence this year. When the NRA suggests that we arm teachers and place armed guards in every school...I hit the wall. When I see supposedly religious people turn into Neanderthals with you in their sights...I hit the wall. When I think about the larger connected issues, especially those about public education, I not only hit the wall, I begin to wonder if some folks even have the capacity to understand the implications of their beliefs. I don't say this lightly. Like you, I have some friends with political and religious beliefs very different from my own. I value their humanity, their right to think for themselves, and often the insight they provide into worlds I do not inhabit. Yet, when I see so little outrage about gun owners having the right to own assault weapons with 30 round magazines, I have to wonder. Are these people as dangerous as their thoughts? I have always believed that we do well to remove ourselves from dangerous people. Some of the great thinkers in psychology and the humanities feel this way too. In the past I have made the difficult decision to break off a few friendships with people who I deemed either too needy or too negative. That's one thing. But now I must ask, what happens when someone's position is not reasonable...not moral? There is nothing to see there except trying to reason with someone incapable of change. Someone entrenched. Someone who feels threatened by science, by deep critical thought, by what and who they deem pseudo-intellectual. The teacher in me says keep trying to break down ideas you know to be the truth into understandable statements. Don't quit. Find other ways to enlighten. Continue to believe that imperfect thinking is perfectible.

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