This months Self-Portrait Challange says:
Look beyond the surface of your life, dig into your imperfect self and reveal it to us. I want to see the down and dirty you, the messy, gross and ugly you, the side of yourself that you always try to hide, give us some insight into your dreadful secrets. This can be your physical self or your personal space or within your wider life.
So here is my second installment:
The worst flaws or imperfections to have, I suppose, are the ones we are blind to. We live our lives blissfully ignorant thinking that we are being appreciated for our values, only to learn that we may actually be pushing people away by our austerity. Thus, it can be a healing sensation, when we wake up one day and become cognizant of the flaws in our personalities that others have noticed for years. Simply becoming aware of our behavior, however, is only the first step. Most of us, initially deny the flaws which are hidden from ourselves and blame others for misunderstanding our purpose or motivation; but after some time, if we look honestly and carefully at ourselves and how others react to our actions, we will eventually start to understand how our passions affect other people. I have had such an epiphany.
I love to argue. I don’t mean quarrelling for the sake of contention, or arguing in a confrontational way; I mean I like to argue like a lawyer argues. I like to discuss, to debate, to deliberate, to question, to contest, to challenge. I don’t believe in an end of an argument. Politics, religion, the merits of a certain band versus another, the role Basquiat played in the NYC art scene; you name it, I will discuss it with whomever will sit and listen. I have been accused of always needing the last word, of not knowing when to stop. My best friends and even my wife have told me that my style of debating (full of passion and vigor) is intimidating. I respond with one argument after another. The victim of my deliberation will often give up, because they feel that my case, or more accurately my style of arguing is impenetrable. I have been accused of being self-righteous, patronizing, condescending, and a know it all.
For years, I didn’t care what people said. I figured, I had built my arguments like powerful buildings set in foundations of logic and fact; what did I care if people couldn’t handle the weight of my opinion. After all is me who had spent hours reading and researching just so I could back up what I said with data from books, movies, and articles I had researched. You should have seen me try and convince people to vote for Ralph Nader a few years ago. I was relentless. I really should have been a lawyer. Third party politics is a topic in which I have often entrenched myself. I have a hard time understanding why people can’t see the flaw in the case that is allowing people to believe that the Democrats will some how save the USA.
I have, however, recently started to see that maybe, I too, am blinded by my own opinions. While I preach an open mind and objective arguments, I have realized lately that I too often force my opinion down people’s throats as if it is the truth; when we all know that the truth is relative. I am so far left in my politics that I cannot and will not listen to other points of view, especially those coming from the far right. I automatically scoff at conservatism, and so I have become the very type of person I despise. I distrust people who are overly religious; Christians have felt my wrath the most. I simply don’t trust em’. But isn’t my denying their point of view the same as them stating emphatically that they alone know the truth? Isn’t my point of view that their god does not exist, the same as them arguing that he does? I am starting to see that I have to start allowing for the possibility that maybe they have a link to the truth too.
It’s just that I have read so many books, and I have discovered so many patterns in history, religion, and politics. Once you see the patterns: politics, religion, and all the other “no-go” subjects become so much less vague, so much easier to debate and understand. It is often the most frustrating arguing with people who don’t know the facts. I guess this is where the patronizing flaw in my personality comes to play. I just want to share the information I have gleaned with as many people as I can, but my passion gets the better of me, and I stop listening to what the other person is saying. This type of one-sidedness is the very type of mindset that I have fought my whole life.
The older I get, the more I am starting to realize that I cannot and need not convert the whole world to think like me. I simply need to listen and learn how to compromise more. The term, “compromise not conversion” has become my new mantra. While I may be armed with my Zinn, Chomsky, Marx and the spirit of Che, I will never make people change their minds until they are ready for it. Maybe I don’t need to. Maybe I simply need to find a way to help us get to a place where we can live in peace.
Last night as I was feeding my daughter, I allowed my mind to drift to this post and saw what I am trying to say in this metaphor: I envisioned myself arguing with a blank faced stranger in a ring. There was a barrier between us; and I held his arms and was pulling him as hard as I could over to my side. But suddenly, I realized that it would be easier if I could remove the barrier first and simply invite him to my side.
So the question now is how do I remove the barriers that separate people? I guess the first step is always listening. This means listening in order to truly understand where people are coming from, not simply being ready for a rebuttal like I always tend to be. I have become aware of one of my major flaws: I am often blinded by my opinions and appear to be self-righteous, inflexible, and stubborn. I appear to be a person who is constantly screaming his opinions to whomever is around, not caring to know if they are even listening. But in reality, I am simply trying to grow as a person and find a way to fix the world, so it can become a place where my daughter can raise her children without worrying about the conflicts that plague my mind.
I want to tell the readers of this blog, my friends and family who have been upset my assertiveness in argument, that I have realized this flaw in my personality and I am trying to learn how to have a conversation, listen, and respond more effectively. I will try my best to no longer simply preach and argue. But, oh there must always be a but- I will not ignore fact, reason, or logic, when they present themselves to me. The importance of third party politics in the US, the value of the lost gospels in the Bible, the fact that Pearl Jam is the best band of all time. You name it; I will be ready to hash it out with the best of you, but now I will actually try and hear what you have to say. So do your research and bring it on!