Radical Honesty: Enema For The Soul

This will no doubt come as a surprise to some of you, but I still get very uncomfortable when the need to speak my mind on a controversial subject arises. But to overcome my discomfort, and to prevent it from keeping me silent, I try to also remember that while…

As I’ve said many times before on this blog, I don’t do “live” interactions with people very well. And while I’ve been involved in many heated debates in my life, it was a rare thing indeed for me to walk away from one feeling that I had adequately expressed my views or the principles behind them. Unfortunately, the isolated life that I’ve lived for the last few years hasn’t exactly improved my debating abilities, and that has caused me to have a “bad taste” in my mouth for the last couple of days after a most unsatisfying debate with my son over the concept of religious freedom.

A debate that ended with him essentially accusing me of contradicting myself by advocating the right to believe as one wants while at the same time showing extreme intolerance towards those who believe differently than I do. Well, though I know that he’ll probably never read this, this post is my attempt to set the record straight, if only for my own peace of mind.

You see, my actual position is much more in line with this Carl Sagan Quote posted by my friend at the Metousiosis blog:

The problem with Mr. Sagan’s beautifully worded statement, however, is that it doesn’t provide an answer to the question of how, exactly, a person would go about becoming “fully equipped” when the culture he lives in fails to provide them with the tools he needs. It is my belief that the road to being fully equipped begins with a staunch defense of one’s own individuality.

I defend the right of others to believe as they want, not because of some need to show approval for the things they believe in, but to help ensure my right to believe, and to say so out loud if that’s what I choose, that those I disagree with are all freaking nuts! And while I recognize the educational value of exploring my national, cultural, and ethnic heritage, to me the only proper way to end a sentence that starts with “I’m a” or “I’m an,” is with an occupation descriptor and not some “group” affiliation, because to do so robs me of my identity as an individual – the sacred foundation upon which my entire understanding of reality rests.

Though it wasn’t aimed at me specifically, fellow blogger Jim Wheeler summed up my thinking here most profoundly in his comment on Pied Type’s Climate change: ‘Chasing Ice’ post:

“Depends on a person’s world view. Some people’s world view has a radius of about 8 feet, and others, the poets among us, feel viscerally about the implications the intellect delivers. Has nothing to do with religion, which is dogma, it’s more about the size of one’s tribe. Some people’s tribes are exceedingly small, and others? The human race.”

I want my beliefs to be based on my long-term best interests as determined by my nature as a human being, and not on the short-term, arbitrary “needs” of whatever “group” or “groups” I’m being “friendly” with at the moment. I will always view anyone’s attempt to label me as anything other than “an honest man” as an attempt to lock me in the anti-intellectual cage of the human choosing to live as an animal – a cage that a frighteningly high percentage of people choose live in of their own accord – and I will fight against such restrictions on my freedom with every ounce of my being.

Now I admit that I didn’t grow up fearing that speaking against my culture’s prevailing beliefs might actually get me killed, but I’m not exactly handing out awards for tolerance to the people I grew up around either. My determination to choose my own way, as an individual, was what helped me to identify my path to becoming a “fully equipped” human being. By making my own decisions, including my mistakes, and denying myself the opportunity to feign ignorance behind the beliefs held by the others around me, I force myself to remain consistent with reality as I see it. To choose any other way would be an abdication of my responsibility to myself and to my sense of what it means to be a moral human being.

There’s a brightly lit “steer clear” sign that pops up in my mind whenever I encounter someone who identifies himself by his affiliations rather than who he really is, because a person who chooses to hide his identity behind the anonymity of a group is likely to shield his crimes against humanity behind that anonymity as well.

Now I’m not advocating for anyone, anywhere, to get themselves killed because they just couldn’t resist the urge to put some maniac in his place. But, as I’ve heard repeated so many times in “recovery” circles:

“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

Intelligent beings must demand respect for their individuality whenever and wherever they can, if for no other reason than the sake of their “soul” – you know, that thing I call self-respect.

I’ll conclude my “sermon” with some more “thought provoking” words, and a damn fine song, by some of my own “cultural” icons…

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I want ice water.

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24 thoughts on “Radical Honesty: Enema For The Soul

  1. Wow. Deep post. Especially the slideshow.

    Open-mindedness is not the act of agreeing with someone else. It’s admitting that your point of view is not necessarily the only correct one. It’s the ability to say, “I might be the one who is wrong.” And we don’t have to agree for me to like you, either. How you treat me and comport yourself is much more important.

    Beware the gerbils! (My word for our own offspring.) 🙂

    I can hold my own in real-life “debate” with one or two other people, especially if they are not bulldozers. Once a conversation bulldozer is involved, however, I shut down and nothing is accomplished aside from them shoving their point of view down everyone else’s throats.

    It sounds to me like you might be a little too hard on yourself.

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    • It’s so nice to see you here again my friend, especially when it’s to comment on a post I put so much effort into.

      My perfectionism has reared its ugly head again I’m afraid, causing me to spend all day in a vain attempt to be “perfectly” clear. Being hard on myself just kinda goes with the territory. I don’t know if you saw The Monk & The Monkey that I posted early this morning, but this post is kind of a long-winded way of saying “you shouldn’t hate the monkey for being what he is, but you shouldn’t let him set the standards for your behavior either.”

      There was a time when I practically lived for the opportunity to engage in a lively philosophical debate. I guess I owe that to growing up surrounded by ignorant assholes. But the fact is that I was never able to keep the kind of “Spock-like” cool under pressure that I needed to fully express myself the way I hoped. I guess I owe that lack of discipline to my upbringing as well. Which, I guess, is why I strive so hard when I get the urge to write…

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  2. Wonderful, wonderful set of quotations. Thank you for taking the time to assemble them all like this. (I know how time-consuming it is.)

    I hate that my “radical honesty” got buried early on by my natural shyness and my upbringing, which demanded I always be a polite, well-mannered young lady. The intellect never stopped functioning, though, and luckily for me, blogs were finally invented.

    Like

    • You don’t know how much it means to me that you appreciate this post PT. And of course, I understand the whole “natural shyness” thing quite well. Hell, I began writing in my “secret journals” when I was in the fourth grade just so I’d be able to express what I really thought without the fear of being ridiculed. I only wish my shyness hadn’t driven me away from school entirely by the time I started junior high, as I might have actually learned to be good at it with a lot more training. 😉

      Anyway, as for how time-consuming this was to put together, the vast majority of the time was spent on all the editing and re-editing. You’ve overlooked the fact that I’m an obsessive/compulsive nut who lives by the philosophy of his good buddy Foghorn Leghorn:

      ”Fortunately, I keep my feathers numbered for just such an occasion.

      Except for the first Sagan quote at the top, all the other images were already on my PC! 🙄

      Like

      • Already having that stuff downloaded would certainly save a lot of time. Doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it just as much. I started keeping journals in high school, and for the same reason you did. And I still have them.

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        • I really envy your still having those journals PT. I’ve experiences so many “start over from scratch” episodes in my life that I’m lucky to the handful of mementos that I still have.

          BTW, it did take a bit of time to search through my crazy stockpile of images. And between just the two folders that took the ones in this post from, there are still over 1200 images left that didn’t make the cut!

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  3. That’s very profound, sir. Is there a persn who can be both open-minded and closed- minded at the same time? yes,. I am that person. I’m close minded if I really think I’m right. And what I think is right is based on science, facts and plain common sense. And I just cannot be with people or have any conversation with people who will insist on the rghtness of their belefs. Ex. Those people who interpret the Bible literally. I have no patience to listen to them….

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    • You are most welcome my friend. I struggled with how I wanted to go with this for days, and it was that Sagan quote and your comment that helped me pull it all together. I’m glad you like the slide show. It feels good to finally put those images to good use! As for George Carlin, was their anyone better at using humor to pry open the eyes of the intentionally blind? 😀

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  4. ” that those I disagree with are all freaking nuts!” Haha… Well thought out post and must have taken you a long time writing or does it just flow from yr mind to keyboard? Loved the George Carlin quotes, the man is a genius.

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    • Thank you so much my friend. I’m afraid that the flow from mind to keyboard isn’t nearly what it was back when I started this blog. I actually knew what I wanted to say back when I was arguing with my son, but converting my thoughts into something that was actually intelligible took a helluva lot more doing than I like to admit. 😳

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  5. I think you have expressed perfectly what many try to say and fail. I am both open and closed minded. I am both capable of listening to a persons point of view and shutting them down when they become ideologues or idiots.

    Loved the quotes, wonderfully done.

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    • Thanks you so much Valentine. It’s been awhile since I put this much effort into a post, but this issue was important enough to make it worth the effort despite my low expectations for how it would be received. I can’t tell you how nice it feels to be proven right on the first part and wrong on the second! 😀

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  6. I do hope that your son reads the foregoing AND that he is half (or more) as smart as you are. I think this blog is really great. YEAH!!!!!

    Like

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