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Controversy, Challenges and Debates are Good Things, NOT Bad!

The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed. It is just these intense conflicts and their conflagration which are needed to produce valuable and lasting results.

Carl Gustav Jung, Psychologist

Those who know me well know I look under rocks, I pick at scabs (particularly my own), and search for the underlying meaning of things said, but almost more often about things unsaid. I am told more times than I like to hear, "Lighten up."

Ta hell, y'all. I'm not shutting up. And if you don't appreciate the pondering of topics germane to life, I suggest you go back to sleep or whatever it was you do in your spare time with people--tiddly winks or tequila shots or whatever.

I had an epiphany yesterday about mental challenges and the discomfort people have in talking about them.... My son was sitting at the counter/bar while I was cooking dinner. I was a captive audience and so he posed several philosophical questions which had negative connotations and undertones about the idiocy of higher education.... the ridiculousness about value placed on the diploma, the lack of passion of instructors and students, alike and, that, basically, it's all bullshit and then we all get jobs with some hokey title and make lots of money or no money for reasons we can't figure. I responded with my thoughts and we had a very wonderful intellectual exchange for about 20 minutes, albeit, I'm not sure I convinced him just yet that life is sprinkled with wonder. It is likely he must make discoveries, himself.

The point of his issues are NOT the subject of this blog. The point is that I was reminded of my own youth, a time when I had many life questions about the world. I remember occasions when I, like my son, Kevin, posited a theory boldly in the face of my parents. Specifically, at age 16, I came up with some observations about the persona of Catholic priests. It was a somewhat judgmental opinion, nonetheless, I shared it honestly with mom and dad at the dinner table one evening to spark a little conversation. Didn't go so hot, though. My mother asked me to leave not just the table, but the house, for my topic offended her. And that was the end of that conversation forever.

Thing is, back then, I was just a kid with some questions. Maybe I didn't frame my topic or candy coat it, but I was reaching-out to engage some intellectual sharing. Although I tend to think I've grown to know time and place appropriate to talk about things controversial, or to not do it in certain cases because most people can't handle it, actually, it's a lesson I've never learned. Or, maybe I chose to ignore the fact that there are consequences in speaking out about topics that aren't about the weather or if the Rays won the baseball game. Some folks I know do appreciate a quality about me that there is always something to talk about from various angles, even if solving the world's problems never once occurred as a consequence of any of the discussions I ever had.

I'm telling you this because I could have been uptight and uneasy about some of the anti-American thoughts my son was telling me... just like my mom getting offended by my priest theory. With the Kevster, I chose to ask more questions and understand how he arrived at such conclusions. And we talked about the potential that he might--just might--be making some judging leaps when he really doesn't have the "lived" experience to really know what is right/good/better/etc. The thing I'm telling you is that.... the conversation with Kevin was not an argument, it was a quality exchange about things not ordinarily thought, about having a trust in the other person talking with to speak freely, to guess, to get feedback on ideas which might seem extreme or narrow or too open, etc. We didn't agree on many ideas, but we had quality time and walked away knowing more about each other and even a new way of looking at the issues surrounding society's values.

I encourage this type of communication all around. I am saddened that much of the world prefers to see me as the charming, good-mannered girl without a fire up her ass about something..... from the workplace to romantic relationships, nobody seems to have much energy for someone who ponders things intangible...

Well, maybe it is all bullshit to care about anything at all. Maybe it's a time waster to dream/talk long and pontificate when there is laundry to do or a memo to write. I don't know. But I know one thing: My son is my kid... I see myself in his sad eyes trying to find his place in this world, wondering why we are so screwed up as the human race. He said to me, "I would be better off if I were stupid, because the more I learn, the more I see that's not good, in the world and the more overwhelmed I feel in my inability to make a difference." There is something good in realizing one's smallness on this planet, and yet, it can also provide defining moments about how short life is, how important it is to find your place in the world and start living before it's too late.

I would never tell my son to leave the kitchen because he thought something controversial. For to discourage individual thinking is to squish a person. Likewise, I tell my students that I WANT them to write openly about what they ponder or conclude in term papers and support their ideas with references. TELL ME THAT SOMETHING SUCKS OR IS GOOD... Have an opinion! Don't be mediocre! If something you learn makes you mad, then GOOD! Find out why because it will bring you closer to knowing who you are and what you're made of.

Do not fear controversy or conflict! These are the things which strengthen us! This is where opportunity lies! Save the "cheese"-saying smiles for some pretentious event you're forced to attend for your job (for example). With the people that matter... engage the mind. Grow in union.

I defy the many requests by those in my world to "Shut up and just be happy." And so when they send me away from the dinner table, so to speak, I always have my blog or a journal. For there is my outlet for things most people care not to know or speak of... a place to speak my mind... a place to be me. Thank God for that.

I hope you have someone in your life with whom you rant and they love you no matter what.

That's all for today...


Roger D. Curry said...

Fire makes steel.

Jilly said...

i like that your son feels safe enough to talk to you and that you work hard to know that he's safe enough to talk aout anything. my parents love to talk about things, but if you don't agree with them in the end, then you're in for some shit, so i don't talk to them that often.

aliasmoi said...

I am saddened that much of the world prefers to see me as the charming, good-mannered girl without a fire up her ass about something..... from the workplace to romantic relationships, nobody seems to have much energy for someone who ponders things intangible...

A-fucking-men! I have recently been told that what is wrong with me is that I read too much, and that guys do not like girls who can 1) quote C.S. Lewis, Bonhoeffer, or N.T. Wright at length, 2) name all the engineers that worked on the transcontinental railroad.


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