Absolute Uncertainty

It has been a while since I have taken the time to write something that does not have to do with something read or researched for a class, but writing I have done. There are so many things that have happened since my last writing that I really do not know where to begin. Even if I did, I think other pieces I have previously written and posted say what I want to say, and I do not want to be a broken record.

I am all but done with my first semester of graduate study with only one final revision to turn in on Friday. I learned a lot this semester, though a fair amount of the reading and writing I did does not directly pertain to my scholarly interest or curiosity. However, I did manage to find ways to connect subjects which were read to something that interested me and was able to weave my interests, questions, and opinions into the arguments my classmates and I had during seminar meetings.

Our seminars, like most graduate level history seminars I am assuming, lasted for up to three hours with a small break in between. Most of the time two hours was about the limit, and most of that time was spent arguing about interpretations of what was read or written for discussion.

The largest seminar ended with ten participants and the smallest, six. We came to class prepared. The professor opened the discussion by sharing his own thoughts or opinions concerning the reading assigned, and then opened the floor with this, “what did you think?”

Now here is the funny thing. At no time did a professor tell a student that they were wrong or mistaken. At no time did a student tell another student that they were wrong or mistaken. At no time was a voice raised above what passes for civil discussion or discourse. At no time was a student attacked personally. What would happen is the student offering an opinion would be challenged to better support their opinion, and most of the time, really all of the time, the student would be successful in fulfilling the challenge.

In short, we conversed. We discussed. We may not have left class with an overall common agreement, but we did leave with a better understanding concerning the multiple and widely varying interpretations that arise from an event or a figure from history.

It took some time, but I have been able to find a topic I want to investigate for my thesis. Questions concerning the topic will likely change continuously as I delve deeper into the primary and secondary source material, but the overall scope will likely remain unchanged.

Here is another funny thing. The professor who will serve as my advisor/mentor is unabashedly liberal in his political philosophy, and, well, so am I. The topic of the research seminar I took this semester related directly to my thesis, so the paper I wrote will serve as at least a portion of one of my thesis chapters, if not all of one. The professor that led the seminar is unabashedly conservative in his political philosophy. Though not his primary focus of study, he has just as keen an interest in my topic as I do and has expressed so multiple times. I will likely ask him to serve on my thesis committee, and I hope he accepts.

About halfway through the semester, my seminar professor arranged an informal interview with a friend of his to help me develop a stronger grasp on conservative thought with regard to politics and conservative interpretations of historical events and figures that relate directly to the paper I was writing as well as my thesis. The conversation between the three of us was, well, enjoyable. We all knew that we weren’t going to be changing any minds and on some things we did happen to agree. He and I were both up front with one another concerning our philosophies and outlooks concerning the current political landscape, and we laughed when we each said “I won’t hold that against you.” When he asked me about one of the figures I am studying, I told him that I did not agree with just about anything that ever came out of his mouth, but after reading his memoir I could relate a little more with him, but that I still had questions to ask. Our conversation lasted more than two hours, and when we parted ways we shook hands and he told me to be sure he got a copy of my paper.

I found out a little later that it was on the suggestion of my advisor that my seminar professor set up that meeting because he wanted me to have a well-rounded perspective and idea going into my research. He wanted my assumptions and opinions challenged before I ever got started on the study, and challenged they were. Did the meeting change my mind? No. Did the dialogue carried on throughout the meeting force me to entertain an idea or an opinion different from my own? Yes. Did I have to work harder to support my point of view? Absolutely. Did the outcome of my study meet with my previously-held assumptions? Yes and no.

It is that yes and no for which I am grateful, because it opened my eyes to something I had never considered. It is that yes and no that has led me to ask questions that have not been answered. Can I answer them? I am going to try. Because of the challenges presented, I find myself in a realm uncertainty that is either divisive or not addressed at all.

Something my mentor told me brought back something I have always believed. “Make sure you find an opinion that differs from yours.” In order to refute that opinion, I have to entertain the possibility that it may be correct. By entertaining the idea that it is correct, I have to work harder to find the evidence that will support my argument refuting it. If I cannot find the evidence I want to find, I will have to change my argument, as I have already done once and will likely do again. Though I will likely depend some on what others have previously written, what I say or write will be my argument against the differing opinion, and doing so will be both a challenge and an experience.

In a world that is filled with ideological and unwavering absolutes, the challenges ahead loom with a level of uncertainty. I look forward to it, and of that, I am absolutely certain.

 

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Questioning Questions

If you know me or read my writing, you know I ask questions. I ask a lot of questions, sometimes of others, more often of myself. My parents will probably tell you that one of my favorite things to say while growing up was “why?” or “how?” or “what?” or “who?” or “when?”. The answer I remember getting most often is “look it up,” but it isn’t the answer I want to explore in this writing, but rather the question…really any question, and why I ask them.

I went back through my posts and noticed that in the vast majority of them I ask at least one question. Most of the time I don’t get an answer. Sometimes I answer the questions myself in an attempt to explore the idea a question raises. Sometimes the questions are for the readers that grace my posts with their eyes and minds.

What prompted this question about questions, you may ask? Well, I was taking part in a group discussion the other day and it was said that during a dialogue, if one keeps asking questions, then the questioned will eventually be caught in a lie or a dead end or something to that effect; essentially that one’s argument may be found as weak or unfounded. And that is true. Questions, by their very nature, seek truth, but what is truth? This is a question for another time. The question here is about questions, not truth.

Questions need an answer, usually an answer that satisfies a need for better understanding of what has been asked. An unanswered question is something akin to listening to a piece of music and getting to the end of it only to find that the melody and harmony do not resolve, leaving a feeling of want in the listener’s ear.

Maybe better put, an unanswered question is a missed opportunity for the further exploration of an idea, reason, or practice. An unanswered question is a missed opportunity to learn, both for the questioner and the questionee.

Questions drive thought and innovation. Questions drive progress in all areas of life and society. Questions present possibilities and promote probabilities. Questions refine, reinforce, or redefine ideas and/or practices.

Best of all, questions stimulate the mind. They instigate communication and discourse. Questions inspire discussion. Just go to any library or bookstore. Every volume on the shelves is an answer to some question asked.

Back to the question…

Why do I ask questions?

I ask questions because I want to know. I want to come to a better understanding of what I know, or I want to know about something I did not know about before. I want to know what other people think. I want to know why people think the way they do. I want to come to an understanding about things I don’t understand. I want to ponder possibilities and consider probabilities. I want to know that I am right and why. I want to know why I am wrong so I can be right in the future (nobody wants to know they are wrong, especially me.).

I want to know. I want to learn. I want to understand. And I never want to stop.

History: Getting All the Books, Reading All the Pages, Learning All the Stories

I am over 500 pages into the reading lists I have received from professors for the courses I am taking in the upcoming Fall. Mercifully, the professor for my summer class responded to my email asking him about a reading list stating that he would be sending out course information and readings (mostly journal articles) a week or two before class starts in late June/early July.

Over the weekend, we took a trip to the bookstore and I happened upon another title on my reading list and scooped it up, increasing the page count to over 3,000 with a few more titles to find before August arrives.

It’s always exciting reading history. No matter how much one may read on a given topic or period something new always pops up and adds to the narrative. Learning something new about a particular idea, person, or place adds to the understanding one has and adds color to the picture that has already been painted, making it a little more vibrant and adding a little more depth.

It’s a rainy, dreary day, so I am going to try and knock out a couple hundred more pages today. Though I am not particularly excited about the period into which I am currently delving, it is a period crucial to the understanding of other periods which I do find interesting. It is fascinating to see and to learn how the stories of some continually impact the lives of others that do not live in the same place or time.

History is an excellent reminder that we do not live our lives in seclusion. We are in it together for the long haul, and just as stories we act out day-to-day are influenced by past characters and ideas, so, too, will be the stories written in the future along with the narratives we leave behind.

Fascinating? It should be.

A Change in the System

As I sit here waiting for the snow to start falling again, I’m thinking about this article I just read concerning a certain presidential hopeful. I’m not going to post the article here or talk about the particular hopeful candidate. I think we are all a little tired of campaigning and electoral politics, especially in my home state of North Carolina. We just finished with a very bitter and what seemed like a never-ending campaign season.

Now, I love politics. I do. I especially enjoy studying political history. What I am not a fan of is current electoral politics. Emotions get involved and warp the debate that should be based on reason. Then the shouting and finger pointing start, along with snide and pithy remarks that go on and on and on and on and on. It gets old and boring and accomplishes nothing beyond expanding the commenters’ own ego and hubris. We’re all guilty of it. I know I am, at least, and I admit it. Why is it so damn hard for others to do the same?

Imagine how much more civil the process can be if we set our egos and emotions aside and simply talked to one another concerning our opinions. If we stopped allowing politicians and their ilk to bring our emotions into the varied debates, they would stop. If we turned off our televisions and radios when their emotion provoking advertisements came on, they would stop spending money to have them broadcast. The web ads are more difficult, but are easily ignored, and sometimes can be blocked.

The fact of the matter is that politicians themselves, as well as their biggest supporters, have more than enough ego to push their side of the debate. It is our job, no, our responsibility to take their ego out of the equation and attempt to work the problem out rationally, without the influence of emotion or ego.

Another fact is that a particular political platform is not going to please or benefit everyone. Let’s get real about it. According to the United States Census Bureau, the total population for the United States plus Armed Forces overseas through January 2015 was 320,366,579 people. 320. Million. People. That’s a lot of people to please. A lot. Of people. To please. A lot of personalities to influence. No one person, no one party, no one policy, no one law is going to please or influence them all.

Oh? We are a representative democracy? or a Federal Republic? or a Constitutional Republic? Whatever label you want to put on it? So, it takes a majority to set policy and such, a majority being 50% plus 1. Half of 320,366,579 is 160,183, 289.5. That’s still 160 million people to influence or persuade.

But not all of those 320 million people are eligible to vote. Okay. According to the United States Election Project, the voting age population was at 245,712,915 people for the general election of 2014. Half of that is 122,856,475.5. That’s still a lot of egos to influence. But, only 81,687,059 ballots were cast for the highest office on the ballot. Only two-thirds of those even eligible to vote cared enough to do so.

Though not a presidential election year when more voters go to the polls, these numbers illustrate a couple of possibilities, one of which being apathy. People just do not care. Another is that a lot of folks assume that their congressional representatives will win their seats with little to no contest. The incumbency rate averages safely over 80% for representatives and over 75% for senators, so voters tend to stay home for midterm elections thinking their vote will not sway too much one way or the other.

The last possibility that I will mention here goes along with the first possibility that people just don’t care, and that is voter fatigue. A lot of us are just tired of elections. The election cycle never, ever ends. Campaigning never goes away. It is an endless and vicious cycle, and we are tired of it. l say “we,” because I do not think I am alone in this. I no longer watch the news, and very rarely listen to, or read, it much anymore. Well, I probably read or listen more than the average person, but not anything like I used to do. It’s not news anymore. There is little “new” in the news. It is the same story with different characters and different wording, but the plot never changes. Who wants to keep track of that? And with most news outlets, especially those driven by profit motives, mixing news with opinion and commentary, the news is not news anymore. It is simply an orchestrated pandering for like-minded viewers, readers, and listeners. This pandering is nothing more than free campaign contributions given by a given media outlet to the candidate or political cause of its choice, thus continuing the already endless campaign cycle. What it almost seems like is that there is little governance occurring within our system, giving way to the tiresome cycle of unending campaign pandering and electioneering.

And that brings us back to the emotional and ego driven side of electoral politics and the necessity to go beyond the emotional and reach for the rational, to put aside egos and that intoxicating feeling of being right. We can force a better and more constructive conversation. The office seekers are not going to change the conversation for us. We have to demand it. We have to make it known that we are tired of it. The absolute best way to do so is to stop. Stop contributing to a system that does nothing but indulge your ego. Turn the channel if you watch the 24-hour news cycle. Force media outlets to report news, real news, not opinion or commentary. Use your own thoughts to construct an opinion or frame of mind rather than ruminating on something that someone else has already said. Take your own thoughts and use them when having a constructive dialogue concerning a political issue or official instead of bloviating the same tired talking points that someone else has put together. Doing so can reinvigorate our citizenry and bring about an enjoyment of participating in our primary civic responsibility of self-governance.

We” are the government, not the media or elected officials. Elected officials are supposed to represent our wants and needs. We supplement the ideas and we give the political will. It is not the other way around. The media is not there to shape opinion with commentary, but to report factual information. Hold the media to its responsibility. If you see a program giving commentary, turn the channel and do not go back to it. If you read a news article that provides commentary or opinion presented as fact, go to another website or throw the periodical in the trash.

It can be done. I am as big a political junkie as anyone I have ever met. I watched the 24-hour news cycle like it was a religion. I read the news like I could not get enough of it. I have not watched the news on television in going on three years, maybe longer. I have not consistently read news on a major media website in about the same amount of time. I may click on a link here and there if there is an article that is really newsworthy, but as far as taking one, or even two outlets as the political and civic gospel? No, I do not do it anymore.

Ask your own questions and find your own answers. With such an amazing tool as the internet, it does not take much time to do, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Scrutinize and criticize on your own terms. Stop letting others do it for you. Information feeds knowledge and knowledge is power, real power. Stop letting others dictate what information is important and take it upon yourself to do so.

Do you know what scares those in power most? It is not an armed citizenry, but an educated citizenry that has the ability to process information and use that information for its benefit. Information and knowledge can do more to challenge authority than any other weapon. And that is how you bring about change to a system that desperately needs changing.

A Response

This is in response to this post by Holistic Wayfarer…

Upon viewing the list included in her post, I decided to focus on two topics within the list:  my relationship with my sweetheart and the relational boundaries I draw.  That seemed like a good place to start, and the two are somewhat related, so why not knock out two birds with one stone.

First off, I am an intensely private person.  Funny, huh?  Especially since I keep a blog.  I try to avoid anything too private when it comes to my writing here, only focusing on things that I believe many of us have in common.  That said, it still remains that I am intensely private.  I have a difficult, no, extremely difficult time letting people into my life.  This affects those topics listed above.

In short, I have walls…high, strong, and impenetrable walls set up to protect me.  What do they protect me from?  Or, what do they protect?  I’ve had these for a long time, as long as I can remember.  When I think about it, it isn’t just my protection that the walls serve, but also I do not like to have others close to me doting on my problems or worrying about me.  So, it is also about protecting them. It probably hurts a lot more than it helps, keeping these walls up, especially concerning my relationship with my sweetheart.  I do try to open up the gate and let her in, but it is pretty hard to do a lot of the time, and I well understand just how frustrating that can be for her.

I guess the truth is that I am afraid of how others perceive me.  I could say concerned, but it is really fear much more than concern.  I don’t much care for negative feedback or being criticized at all.  Who does? I prefer to be welcomed rather than shunned, liked rather than disliked, or loved rather than hated.

Is it better to be loved as the person I want others to see, or to be loved, or hated, for being the person I really am?  This is the question that my walls protect me from.  In truth, I do not even know if tearing down my walls will bring hatred or negativity my way.  Questions, sure, and a lack of understanding are possible, but hate?  It is out there. That much is sure, but let’s ask the question again.

Is it better to be loved as the person I want others to see, or to be loved as the person I am?

I think that is a much better question and focuses more on the feelings I feel and want to experience.

Though love is the most important emotion, and strongest, there is something to be said for respect.  You cannot have love without respect, but you can have respect without love.  So…

Is it better to be respected as the person I willingly show to others, or to be respected for the person I am?

It’s a good question.  To earn respect of another is a pretty fantastic feeling, but is that respect deserving when it is given without seeing the whole picture?  but, this is off the topic and may be better dealt with at another time.

Back to topic…

I am afraid of how others perceive me which brought me to the question asked above. We know what the answer is.  In the short run the first part seems like an obvious choice because, well, in the short run things tend to come and go.  However, in the long run, the latter must be true, otherwise the lies and deceit (intentional or intended with malice or not, it does not matter) will take their toll on the one hiding who they are, and, possibly, what they do.  Fruitful relationships cannot be built upon this and be expected to last and will ultimately fail.

I guess that is a long winded way of saying that, in terms of the topics stated at the beginning, without fear, things would look very different.  My relationships would be much stronger and infinitely more meaningful, thus contributing more positively to my life and happiness in it.  More or less, fear is crippling, and serves little positive function when it comes to relationships between people.

He Was Right

“Of course, there is a portion of reading quite indispensable to a wise man. History and exact science he must learn by laborious reading. Colleges, in the like manner, have their indispensable office,–to teach elements. But they can only higher serve us, when they aim not to drill, but to create; when they gather from far every ray of various genius to their hospitable halls, and, by the concentrated fires, set the hearts of their youth on flame. Thought and knowledge are natures in which apparatus and pretension avail nothing. Gowns, and pecuniary foundations, though of towns of gold, can never countervail the least sentence or syllable of wit. Forget this, and our American colleges will recede in their public importance, whilst they grow rich every year.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar

I read this a couple of weeks ago and it has just stayed with me.  The words were first spoken by Emerson in 1837 during an address to the Phi Beta Kappa Society in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Now, I am not an expert when it comes to higher learning or the institutions of such, other than to say that I have a Bachelor’s Degree and aspire to even higher education.  Yet, when I think of my alma mater in terms of this quote, along with the incredible sense of urgency by politicians to get students enrolled into math and science programs with endless government subsidized loans, my eyes open and I see that few heed the warning Emerson gave nearly 200 years ago.

Consider also the meteoric rise of for-profit colleges and trade institutions and the point is even further illustrated.

Truth is that colleges and universities are becoming training centers rather than institutions of higher learning, and, as one that sees the importance of the arts and humanities, also math and the sciences, and how that combination gives a well-rounded education, that is troubling.

The traditional subjects, the arts, humanities, mathematics, and sciences teach one to probe more deeply, to ask questions and seek answers, to innovate in order to find solutions.  They promote thought beyond simple rote memorization, which is incredibly boring and less than stimulating to the mind.  There is always a question to be asked and answered, and there is always an answer seeking to be found.  To know the right question to ask is to take the first step in discovering what is being sought.  Other materials have failed to ask it and without the question, there can be no answer.  With answers still waiting for their questions to be asked, there is more knowledge to acquire, and with more knowledge to acquire, there is a continued need for education, rather than indoctrination or job training.  With more time spent indoctrinating students with “proven” techniques, models, and ideas, there is less time spent engaging creative areas and then a lack of true ingenuity creeps in and sets the ground for little to no innovation. With less encouragement for innovative thought or creativity, there is a loss of newly acquired knowledge, leaving education stale and, overall, unrewarding.

I was reading an article earlier today at Salon.com, the title of which is “Congratulations, Class of 2014:  You’re Totally Screwed.”  It states that the average student loan borrower that completes an undergraduate degree owes an average of $33,000 (I feel your pain. I still owe $23,000 on mine). Among other things, I highly recommend the piece and sharing it far and wide.  One sentence that stood out to me, “Actually, the opposite is closer to the truth:  college costs more and more even as it gets objectively worse and worse.”  I think there is probably some truth to that, in terms that previous generations’ educational experiences were a better bang for the buck. The article goes on to talk about the perils and troubles experienced by adjunct faculty that are hired by universities in order to cut costs for tenure-tracked positions.  Perhaps I am incredibly naive and maybe a bit utopian in my thoughts, but I believe education to be an endeavor that should not seek profit and growth for profit’s and growth’s sake, but to further the search for knowledge.  Not every worthwhile pursuit needs profit and infinite growth.  How large does a school need to be in order to maintain a healthy bottom-line which is being fed constantly by tuition costs that rise steadily and continuously?

Back to my alma-mater…

It is a public university, a part of the state university system.  I remember visiting the school and loving the campus. It was beautiful and not overly huge. If you humped it, you could get from one end to the other in about 15 minutes. Classes averaged about 20-25 students (my senior level classes and some of my junior level classes were less than 10) excluding freshman/general education courses and introductory classes, but even then I think my largest class was probably 100 students or so.

I’m not sure what the class size is now, but I know the school continues to grow. Every year that I lived in the area, about 15 years (I dropped out for a while and went to work.  I went back later once I got my shit together.), there was a construction project going on somewhere.  A new science building for the chemistry, physics and astronomy departments.  An addition to the old science building that houses the biology, geology, geography, and anthropology departments. A new dormitory or two or three.  A new cafeteria.  Two new parking decks on campus.  A new library (thank god.  The old one SUCKED). The renovation of the old library into a classroom building that contains the history and political science departments (where I was when I was not in the new library). A refurbished football stadium with expanded seating and press/spectator boxes. New athletic facilities for the baseball, basketball, softball, and tennis programs.  A new arena known as the Convocation Center. A new student recreation facility. And a revamped student union and student bookstore. When I left, the school was breaking ground on a new facility for the school of education. There are others, I am sure, but these stick out in my mind.

I love my school. I loved attending it, and I love the area. I am convinced that there is not a better place on earth. It is heaven. There are things that put a damper on the experience, though, and every one is due to growth of the university. The endless construction projects create havoc on the campus and are unsightly, taking away from the beauty of everything else surround it.  With growth, there are more people. Holy crap, more people and traffic. The traffic. Oh god, the traffic. It used to be only on football Saturdays that one avoided getting in a car unless you absolutely had to. Now, it truly is every day, especially during the academic year. It’s awful and you can damn well count on having a stroke or a coronary everytime you get behind the wheel and on the road.

I don’t know the total cost for all of these projects and the others that have surely sprouted up since I left the area a few years ago, but I do know how much tuition increased from my inaugural semester until my final semester as a full-time student some years later.  Over 300% just for classes, not including any price hikes for campus room and board or books and materials for class.

I’m just spitballing here, but what if the school spent more time, money, and energy showing what the faculty actually do in their classrooms and laboratories rather than shaping up the buildings that house them, it would get a more effective and efficient use for every dollar spent.  If schools are seeking students whose wish is to attend a university with stellar athletic facilities and shiny new buildings without a thought or care about what they will actually be learning or doing, then institutions of higher learning are most definitely missing the point.

Emerson was right and we can’t even see it, and that saddens me.

A Principled Solution

Regardless of what I may think or say, I am not always right. I think those are some of the most difficult words to say. I’m usually right, anyway. Well…sometimes I’m right. My wife will give me that much.

And those times when I am right, I thoroughly enjoy. Being right is one of life’s great pleasures. It does not matter why I am right or what I am right about but just the fact that I am right brings loads of happiness and delight my way.

Sometimes I am wrong, but that’s done on purpose. It’s good to spread the right around from time to time. You know…just give ’em a taste, get ’em hooked, and they’ll come back wanting more.

Being right is addictive. It is to me anyway. I may have a problem, but that is for another post. I spend my life looking for the right answers, and it seems like a neverending quest. Searching, searching, searching everywhere. Looking for the elusive right answer that will solve a given problem. Looking for the solution that will come without a conflicting response or opinion. I look for these and when I cannot find them, I try desperately to develop them in my mind. When that does not work, I go to like-minded souls that will reassure me that the course I wish to take is the right one and will not faulter. I check my beliefs and my unshakable bedrock of principles against the issue that needs addressing. It is in those things, those places and recesses of my mind I find solace. I find comfort and reassurance. Yet, the issue remains unresolved.

People change.

Needs change.

Wants change.

Situations change.

Seasons change.

The weather changes.

Minds change.

With changes, questions change and answers change. As much as we would like to believe that the world is black and white and is set in stone; it surely is not. Rather the world is fluid. It is always changing and shifting, both figuratively and literally, and perhaps in the most minute ways. Those that wish to survive in it must learn to grow and adapt to the changes that are coming and that will come.

With the immense challenge that comes with keeping up with a changing world, there is a need to come to grips with the uncertainty that is sure to accompany those changes that will arise. More gray will be thrown into a world that is already muddled with many shades of gray between the already indistinguishable black and white. Undoubtedly, panic will ensue with some of the changes that perceivably threaten the status quo. People will not know what happens next, as much as we pride ourselves in believing we do know. Tempers will rise. Defensive mindsets will take over. Comfort will be sought within groups of like-minded people. Instead of built, bridges will be burned.

We see it all the time in politics and government, but this happens in the everyday as well. Bridges must be built and maintained between contesting ideas in order to promote meaningful solutions that each holder of a given idea believes to be correct. It is here, in these bridges, that the real work of problem solving is done. It takes hard work, a lot of communicating, and a little humility to find satisfying and agreeable solutions that will alleviate the problems that accompany a change that requires action or an obstacle to overcome.

However, we allow individual egos to get in the way (See the opening paragraph). Egos and the individual’s perception of need taints the process and clouds the issue that needs to be addressed. It is easy to see this everywhere. Just turn on the television. There are an endless number of voices and views which pander to individual wants, needs, and egos. They provide us a zone of comfort and an area of certainty within a truly uncertain world. Within them, we know our point of view is safe and right. It is easier to stay within those walls than it is to come out and experience another point of view, or at the very least, entertain one. Yet, in order to see the whole picture and find a solution to it, it is necessary to put egos on hold and allow “the better angels of our nature” to shine forth and show the way to meaningful solutions to issues that come with the changing world. Add to that time and patience and reflection, and we can accomplish anything.

I will be the first to admit that I am not the most patient person. I find it difficult to maintain a patient attitude, especially when there is a problem. Often, I will make my point of view known with little regard toward those who disagree with my position. Eventually, I will listen to an opposing idea, and after immediately dismissing it, I will take time to contemplate or even consider the prospect. It may not be right, but there is planted the seed of a possibility, the chance that an idea can be built which incorporates the better parts of competing views; and then, that idea, or multiple ideas, may be better on the whole than the original competing propositions.

It seems to me that this is the only way to bring about any meaningful change that has a chance of lasting. What most people are afraid of, I think, is the idea that they may come to empathize or sympathize with an idea or principle that is opposite to what they believe. They do not want to consider that, though their idea is right, there may be a better idea wandering in the fray. For many, to empathize, sympathize, or otherwise identify with a diametrically opposed position means to cast doubt on one’s own position or principles. If such is the case, then perhaps that position  or those principles require change, and there is nothing wrong with that.

It takes a strong character to be willing to look at one’s self, and what one believes, and see that a change is necessary. It happens to the best of us, even me, and will continue to happen. We learn new things through experience, and life is just that…a series of experiences. What we do with what we learn speaks volumes about the people we are and that which we want to be.

And maybe, just maybe, through learning by way of experience, we can adopt better principles upon which to lay stronger, more worthwhile, and sturdy foundations.