Sunday, April 10, 2011

Some Thoughts On Arguments And Belief

I never want to have an argument again. I’m done letting my wires get tripped in the heat of discussion and feeling the sour chemicals of frustration stream out. I never again want to find myself in a feedback loop, shutting someone down, being shut down, shutting someone down, being shut down - walls of memory banks crumbling, old feelings, old behaviors, rolling out into open air.


Beliefs are heavy, burdensome things. I’ve tried to shake the beliefs of my friends and family, but a belief is something big and rooted. A belief is a house with foundations laid deep. It can have many levels with many rooms and so many things hung in its closets. It can be hard to grasp in the moment, but there’s someone living their life inside of that belief, just as you go to bed each night in yours.

How often is it worth it to bring in a wrecking crew to try to dismantle someone’s convictions, someone’s perspective on the world? For them to watch the shelter they dwelled in be destroyed, to have all of their belongings strewn about? How high should the stakes be for us to make our loved ones rummage through the pieces in embarrassment, to try to construct some sort of roof to raise above themselves while they figure out what’s right? Especially if they’re getting along fine, if they aren’t harming themselves or others, the way we all stumble along with our ever-imperfect situations. Why put someone down? Why tell them they are wrong? If they are, they will probably learn it in a more effective way (the hard way).

Often, I think, we’re trying to be kind. If we see something that we think could be better in this world, we want to make it so - or we at least want to point it out. But conversely, for so many reasons, we also want to control others, want to have our statements and feelings validated - whatever they may be. But what good is validation from someone whose throat you’re holding a knife to?

People need to believe different things at different moments in different places in their lives. We’ll never be all on the same page. Right and wrong as I see it is a spectrum, an art-form. It’s a chess game, and we must address the intricacies of each move with fresh tact. It’s a skill we should always be honing.

But then there’s bigotry, there are cults, there are harmful notions that cut through our culture at all discernible levels. These beliefs can become towering high-rises, and constantly being under attack, their foundations get dug deeper and deeper every time they are defended. They tend to be eclipsing something buried, something someone carries around with shame. We know that an argument is touchy, and that there are slow and effective ways to address these issues, to stand up to them, but they are often more risky and more complicated than blasting our own fiery convictions back into someone’s face. Maybe there is a right time to let the anger flow when it comes to addressing dangerous ideals, but I really think you need a steady hand to cut ties so tightly bound.

Of course, I know I’ll find myself in arguments again. I’ll wake up in a heated debate over something inane and watch it roll right over the edge into battle. But I want to remember in those moments that what is happening is no longer about the content of the discussion, it is about something deeper and unique in each of us. The way someone behaves in a conflict shows their true colors, gives you a glimpse of the actual home they were once helpless in. It seems to me that once we enter into an argument, we begin to work out our issues on one another - our needs for control, our needs to be accepted and validated and praised and loved, our needs to be understood. We start to vent these feelings from the past - the grief, the anger, the sensations of being victimized - all the things we’ve never had a place for and never were able to throw out. We start to hurl rocks at each-other's houses, forgetting why we got so heated in the first place.

I want to always be honing my craft. To get better at taking that deep breath, making the pact to disagree, and disbelieving the part of me that thinks I was being insulted. I want to be able to make a clean move to the next string of moments. I want to be open, and stay strong, to know what needs to be defended, and what needs to be shrugged away.