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Policy Change

Catalyst:


In recent days, two journal authors on my friends list have stated their conviction that to take pleasure in life when the world harbors so much suffering and evil is at best solipsistic and may even count as evil in its own right. Upon reading each of these entries, I posted a reply saying something to the effect that we react emotionally not to external events, but to the judgments we make about those events, and that we have the option of acknowledging suffering and evil and then choosing to focus on what brings us joy. In stating this position when and how I did, I went counter to a new LiveJournal policy that I have recently set for myself.

The Policy:


I have decided that when I read something with which I disagree, rather than replying to the journal entry that got me thinking, I would paraphrase the person’s position in my own journal without identifying the author and then give my ‘response’ there. Life is personal, and I have no intention of acting otherwise, but when I respond to a person’s ideas directly in a public forum, I’m giving them an incentive to defend their territory and their reputation. Prompting someone to defend against an assault on the edifice of ideas they have constructed, I think, inhibits fresh thinking and actually reduces the likelihood that the author will let go of the ideas that they had expressed and replace them with something more workable.

Also, for strictly self-interested reasons, I think having a centralized collection of essays that do not depend on other people’s journal entries for their context will serve me better than a (non-)collection of scattered, reactionary paragraphs.

Considerations:




Given to thinking in dialogs between imaginary devil’s advocates, I hear one chiming in now with, “Yes, but in effect, doesn’t this new journaling strategy of yours, by withdrawing the links to other minds and to multi-participant conversations, confirm the charge of solipsism?”

Perhaps, but if so, then it only confirms the ill-defined charge of ‘solipsism’ invoked by literary critics to chastise fledgling novelists and not the philosophical solipsistic position that holds that since I cannot confirm the existence of minds other than my own that I must grant other people no more than a hypothetical and therefore provisional existence. While obedience to rigorous philosophical skepticism may demand that I take this hard-line solipsistic position, having left hard-line philosophical skepticism in my twenties, it’s a demand I find easy to ignore.

Another voice chimes in and asks, “I can see the advantages of your plan, but won’t you deprive yourself of a deeper understanding of other peoples’ positions and concerns if you don’t challenge them directly and see how they respond to your challenge?”

Maybe, but we always pay a price. Another price will come in the form of quantity. It’s easy to fire off a quick and dirty reply in a browser window. When I compose a journal entry in Word, it stands no better than a fifty/fifty shot of actually making it into my journal.

Conclusion:


None yet. In articulating this policy, I’m passing Go for the first time. It will take some will power on my part to resist the lure of the cherry targets that will enter my sites as I circumnavigate the game board, and it will demand more of my energy and attention to summarize the thought catalysts my friends provide than it takes to simply cut and paste, but I’m willing to give it a go.

Starting now.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
faegoddess
May. 2nd, 2003 08:02 pm (UTC)
Perhaps literally playing the ancient game of "Go" will help the enlightenment process even further....or perhaps not
kmo
May. 3rd, 2003 07:23 am (UTC)
Go!
I've heard good things about go. I have no resistance to exploring it further.
tragemorph
May. 2nd, 2003 11:24 pm (UTC)
I like to do this little 'trick' where you completely understand where a person is coming from, then convey that commonality to them, and then 'let' them discover that this new way of thinking is actually just as much 'their own' thought as it is yours, for it is just the extension of what they had already believed but not yet thought through. And as such you've ostensibly just been the incidental catalyst, nothing more.
kmo
May. 3rd, 2003 07:26 am (UTC)
Gentle direction
Reminds me of an audio tape I used to have of Michael Cloud explaining how he identified the concerns of people of all political stripes and tied them to Libertarianism. "Liberty has something for everybody," he said.

The next time you employ this technique on LJ, please send me the link.
rmbrodie
May. 3rd, 2003 04:40 am (UTC)
Won’t phrasing your replies diplomatically avoid defensive responses? It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it, no?
kmo
May. 3rd, 2003 07:22 am (UTC)
Diplomatic phrasing
I think I could formulate an alternate policy which involves focusing on maximizing the diplomacy of my reply in order to avoid a defensive response. That seems like a workable plan, and while I identify no fault in it (other than the fact that the replies that I post in other people's journals don't get archived in a way that I can easily retrieve), I still intend to stick with the policy I've described.

One realization I've gleaned from the whole self-improvement biz is that there are more worthwhile pathes to follow than I can possibly pursue. I've observed many people looking to find fault with a proposed path in order to justify not following it. In effect, they say, "I'm following path A rather than path B because path B is defective in the following ways..."

I say, "Path B seems perfectly optificient (sufficiently optimal), but right now, I'm on path A, and I intend to see where it takes me."
rmbrodie
May. 3rd, 2003 05:06 pm (UTC)
Re: Diplomatic phrasing
As you probably already know, when it comes to groking wide-open issues with lots of facets and variables (like, for example, the question "how should I live my life?") my preferred model is: "any number of solutions could be a good choice". Anyway, your idea is pretty cool. I think I'm going to try experimenting with it.

One thing I worry about is how will people feel if I stop replying to their posts.
kmo
May. 4th, 2003 06:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Diplomatic phrasing
my preferred model is: "any number of solutions could be a good choice".

That strikes me as an excellent model.

One thing I worry about is how will people feel if I stop replying to their posts.

I don't plan to stop replying to all posts. I'll still post the "Yeah, I know what you mean," and "Good story, that reminds me of such and such a movie, book, song, etc," sorts of replies. The only kind of response I plan to redirect to my own journal involves my presenting what I take to be a more workable mindset than the one expressed in the other person's journal entry.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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