October 9, 2006

Self-Portrait: Imperfectly Blinded By My Opinions While Appearing Self-Righteous, Inflexible, and Stubborn

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!


  1. Actually you are quite introspective. Your blog has shown that time and again. Your opinions come with you as a package. It is not good or bad. I doubt if you'll change anytime soon.

    I'm much less introspective. I never tell much about myself to anyone.

  2. This post is impressive - it takes a big man to own up to flaws like this. As your friend, I have to say that I agree with many parts of what you say about yourself.....and I still like you! Your opinions, your passion, your knowledge - it is part of the whole package that makes up BZ. It will be interesting to see how you find this new challenge of listening and taking on board others points of view and opinions and facts. Personally, if there was you and me in a ring, you would K-O me with the depth of knowledge you carry. Unless of course if it was about shoes. You wouldn't even come close.

    Great post - love reading these self portraits for their raw honesty.

  3. What a great post. My mother always told me; a great conversationalist is one who listens.

    I have the same tendency to spout my opinion as truth. But, I have come to realize that the best conversations I've had, have been ones where I stepped back and really tried to hear what the other person was saying. In doing this, my responses are more thought out than what I originally intended.

    well done.

  4. I know you get a lot of comments, but I always like to say something when your post really strikes me.

    I think today I will just say thank you. I'm not sure I would have kicked myself and psoted my link this week/month without it.

  5. You are something else, let me tell you. You are a passionate person, and you must never lose that. The fact that you realize you need to express your passion in a way that is less daunting to others is a huge step toward succeeding.

    You apologized once to me. I recall it. You were not wrong, per se, but you felt you had come on too strong. You have no idea how that impressed me.

    Growing older and having children makes one take stock of many different things...which I believe is what has happened to you.

    Love the photo!

  6. Does this mean less all-staff e-mails? Because, really, that is what we all love about you...

  7. The image was striking--great saturated color, great premise. I was very inspired by it...The writing, well, that hasn't disappointed yet! I am on the opposite side of this "imperfection", which is no less a flaw, trust me. I love that you allowed yourself to drift into metaphor as you fed your daughter...all kinds of nurturing going on around your place!

  8. A well-reasoned post. I remember a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip where Calvin is transported to a chaotic world of cubism because he considers for a moment the possibility that his Father's perspective on an issue might be equally valid to that of his own. He saves himself by asserting that his own view is ultimately correct and his Father is wrong. :)

    Thanks for widening our perspective, even though the wider view does sometimes seem to contain more chaos than the narrow one.

  9. Profound once again. I have great respect for you. I continue to find it shocking how different we are, yet how alike we are.


  10. I applaud your honesty and willingness to change. Great shot! BTW I loved Ralph :)

  11. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

  12. i admire your ability to look at yourself and to pick and probe. i wanted to wander over and talk about the third party thing. i wanted you to know that i very much am in agreement with you that we need third party and beyond politics in america. our sticking point is timing. i don't look to the dems as saviours by any means. i am looking for a sure way to get the repubs out of the seat of power as quickly as possible to save lives and what is left of our tattered and battered constitution. if i thought for one minute, that this country was ready- i would be blogging third party non stop. we need the repubs out yesterday. we have to use the dems to do it.

    i am not as far to the left as you either- but i understand where your heart and mind is coming from. i don't often disagree with you and the way that you think. just a little sticking point this time. :)

    great post as always.

  13. Anonymous9:40 AM

    Impressive posting!!! I myself sometimes may be inconsistent because to me human behaviors are not black and white. However, I am aware of the probability of my inconsistence. It’s amazing that a lot of people are unaware of what they act are actually inconsistent with the principles that they have claimed to follow.

    By the way, check out Neither Party- the third party with the intent to do good.

  14. Found my way here from your comments on Tom Degan's page. You have a great site here which I will continue reading as soon as I post this comment.

    I wanted to share with you where you can get ahold of the movie being featured on Betmo's page. You can get the video at www.iraqforsale.org for $12.95. Better yet, host a screeing of the film at your house and moveon.org will GIVE you the film as a thank you for spreading the word!

  15. Been lurking but thought it was time to say something...

    Every week I'm impressed with your self-portraits -- both the quality of the portraiture and the personal insights. You're brave to put your self-revelations on a page read by people you actually know!

    It's time for a 3rd, 4th, 5th party revolution, I agree!
    I think they have 12 parties in Israel and something like a 65% voter turn out for their last election. Similar situation in Japan and other countries where they realize that, in governing a people, there are more than 2 sides to every issue. We have 2 parties and an appaling 20-something % turn out... shocking.

  16. "... if I could remove the barrier first and simply invite him to my side."


    What a wonderful post. I've always found the most interesting thing about arguing.. or discussing is hearing someone else's point of view - I already know mine!

  17. yes...this epiphany is huge, my friend.

    listening has taught me so much in my life. listening, being open, chosing not to be ignorant of other's thoughts and opinions, owning my own opinions and not needing all those around me to feel the same. so very huge this has been for me in my life.

    i would love the opportunity for the five of us to all sit around a table with a bottle of red wine and rich conversation. five including your daughter, that is...; )


  18. I thank you for sharing.