Monday, June 26, 2006
Who is this guy, and why does it smell like moose droppings in here?
I am also as stubbornly opinionated as anyone you will meet, and likely moreso than most. But I've also learned the value of empathy, and the need to understand this skill independently of sympathy and the reactions of a friend to another's adversity. Empathy is understanding, but without agreement or any value judgment. The flipside of this is that I don't have to like you to agree with you. I work hard every day to live up to this dualistic ideal, and I seem to succeed most of the time (defined as greater than 50%).
I have, so far as I've encountered, a unique background. One part I share with several hundred others, and that's being a once and future Patron of the fiction-made-real incarnation of Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, created and conveyed with genius and heart (and the most outrageous puns in history) by Spider Robinson. It is at this incarnation, the Usenet newsgroup alt.callahans, that I learned the simple and beautiful truth of the gift of sharing, where pain is lessened by its dissolution, and joy is increased by its propagation, and those who understand and apply this principle are by and large people I am more likely to want to trust, love, or just spend my time with. Spider, if you ever read this, it is quite deliberate that I give the influence of your work the top spot in this self-description. I love ya, man.
The second part is a lifelong obsession with human behavior, with the mechanics of it as much as with the motivations for and effects of it. I didn't fully appreciate the sheer elegance of the human psyche in all of its glory until I developed and honed that skill of empathy. I didn't understand my obsession until I discovered the other abiding aspect of my personality: mediator.
The third and perhaps crucial part is my pursuit of the skills and accomplishments of mediation. I don't plan to put them to use much in a place like this blog, but to understand me is to understand the power of objectivity, and to fully grasp its narrow limits in conducting the human condition. I would never, I think, be capable of being a judge (my opinions of lawyers will get their own post(s), to be sure), nor do I think mediation skills are so much a prerequisite for that difficult and honorable job.
I like being right as much as the next person, some would say moreso (and would not be far off the mark). I strive instead, though, to get it right more often of late, this being for me a much more long-term satisfaction than crowing over a soundly defeated opponent. So, because I like that sort of explicit structure, here are the ground rules for this blog, and in no particular order.
1) Don't apologize for your feelings. If you are passionate about something, then have at it and pull no punches, so long as you avoid using ad hominem or dismissal of others as your mode of expression.
2) I don't post things about which I want to avoid commentary. I may, occasionally, post about personal things that some might consider TMI or just painful to consider. If that is true about you, simply skip the post. I will try to avoid such topics; I have a Live Journal account, and people there who will read such things without needing alot of details to understand what I'm feeling.
3) Be civil to each other. I mean it. If you have a history, or you just rub each other the wrong way from the start, take it outside. I expect this blog to embody the speech clause of the 1st Amendement to the Constitution of the United States. But I also expect you to understand the two-way street it defines, not the me-me-me part that many seem to get stuck on in recent decades.
4) IANA: stands for I Am Not A and gets completed with various things like lawyer, doctor, physicist, etc. This means two things in my mind: I choose to speak in authoritative mode only about topics for which I have a high level of confidence that I not only have my facts straight, but I have my concepts straight and I have a valid opinion or conclusion to state; I make mistakes, and your default assumption is that I want to be corrected, and I want reliable citations to help me carry that correction forward. Nothing ruins a debate more than lack of data. I respect data, and I appreciate elbow room to assimilate and apply new data. This also means that I will listen respectfully to your comments in the same mode, and you can lubricate the way a bit by clearly caveating your statements and providing factual citations as appropriate.
It is very important to know and remember that I am not territorial. I occupy this space, but I do not own it, and unless you intend to injure I will not take even the most intensely expressed opinion as an invasion. I do have a water pistol, though, and I will use it if the heat gets out of hand. But that does not worry me.
As for details of my personal life, you may find it interesting that I am an international folk dance instructor (retired), but that doesn't tell you why I think Robert A. Heinlein was one of the geniuses of our age in the realm of politics, patriotism, and the roles gender and sexual preference play in human relationships. He was a rolicking good story teller as well, but this blog is not (only) about literary criticism.
So, did you hear the one about what the pig said to the moose whilst sitting at the bar...?
Great blog, and amen on Heinlein (but you already knew that, I think....)
Where can I learn more about mediation in general? I tend to fall into such a role, perhaps due to encompassing a rather diverse background into (more or less) one personality. But I'd like to be better at it regardless.
I like your I'm Not A comment. Reminds me of Dr Jim McCoy of Star Trek Lore. Damn it Jim, I'm a doctor, not a plumber!
Let me know what you think.