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Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Rational Response

I recently mentioned to someone that one of the main purposes of this blog is to be an example of that quote that goes something like "Small minds talk about people, average minds talks about events, great minds talk about ideas." With that in mind, the thing that sparked this entry does happen to be an ongoing thing surrounding people and events in the US right now, but I am only going to mention it briefly to more effectively illustrate the idea I want to emphasize here.

For the last... I don't know... few weeks?... There has been a flood of news articles and posts claiming a whole bunch of horrible things are happening with families and children seeking asylum at the south US border. Each time someone posts something, the now typical social media response is a whole slew of comments filled with anger, bias, fear and ignorance because people allow their responses to be ruled by their emotions rather than constructive, rational research and analysis of the facts from original sources.

I don't what grade schools are like today, but when I was going through those years, the process we were taught to follow to write a research paper was simple.

1. Determine the core of the subject matter, the most pressing points you want to discuss. Make sure it's not ambiguous. "Five essential functions of our circulatory system and why they matter" is miles better than "How the circulatory system works."

2. Go to original sources for the facts. CNN, Fox, NPR, or other news sources do their best of course, but no matter who is reporting information, the 'telephone game' effect (i.e. Information and perspective skewed more and more from one person to the next) will always make it impossible for those sources to give a 100% accurate, truthful and properly contextual picture of what's really going on. If you want to know something about a robbery that happened down the street from you, ask the person who was robbed and the officers who are investigating. Hearsay is never totally reliable.

3. If you find contradicting views or stories from original sources, dig deeper. Find out what circumstances lead to what it is that you want to know about. If it's really that important for you to know, play a little 'Sherlock Holmes' and get more background. Don't settle for being uninformed OR misinformed and ESPECIALLY don't believe something just because it confirms your bias or your own personal experience. Experience is good but no one person's experience is quite like anyone else's. Always remember context is just as essential as the truth. This little visual helps make it easy to see why.



The best response to any problem is always a rational one. In order to form such a response, it is absolutely essential to "shine a light" on it from as many different angles as possible. Each of those lights in the picture represents just one perspective or one little piece of the puzzle within the whole context of a story. And that's just three lights. Imagine, now, how many people ("lights") are involved in any controversial situation, whether it's what's going on at the border, taxes, religious freedom, health care, the political/moral/religious battle ground that college campuses have become or any number of other things. 

Those issues are attacked, or "shined upon" by so many different people that determining your own view and interpretation of it as the only valid one before getting as much information about it as possible is not only unfair, its outright irresponsible, pompous and egotistical. Even if you've talked to a whole bunch of people about an issue and gone to sources you are "absolutely sure" you can trust, you still don't have the whole picture. As uncomfortable as it may make you, go to a source you normally wouldn't trust and be ready to consider that maybe there's SOME truth or context in what they are saying that you need to consider. This doesn't mean that you must trust and untrustworthy source, but that you need to be willing to at least understand someone who holds an opposing view so you're not just shining your "light" on the truth in a way that misrepresents the entire truth in its complete context.

The more angles from which you understand an issue, the more capable you are of responding rationally instead of constantly firing off the same opinion "bullet" at the same target in the exact same place. Once you've hit it from one angle, as I have learned from sad experience, the less people are going to care the more you keep hitting it.

Especially in areas of politics, where so many are so obsessively focused on people and events rather than ideas, the most rational and responsible way to respond to a problem is to:
1. Make sure you have as much context as possible, preferably from those who are actually involved as close to first hand as possible,
2. Consider that you might just be wrong or at least missing context, even (and especially) in areas that are sensitive to you personally and
3. SPEAK KINDLY. Contention, even when you are right, is wrong. Don't stoop to name-calling or insulting someone or their viewpoint no matter how outlandish it seems to you. They won't care about what you say, even if you have the truth in proper context, if you can't treat them like a human being. AND YES, EVERY HUMAN BEING, even if they don't always act like one, deserves love and understanding, which is different, by the way, than trust. And understanding doesn't have to mean you agree.

The main reason I'm writing this one is in hopes that someone might use it to form a more thoughtful, rational perspective about sensitive subject matter and there respond more rationally as well. I will absolutely not claim that I'm a perfect example of any of this, but it's the idea that's important.

Just remember what Jesus said about the matter, "...he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention..."

Give the rational response. Stay peaceful, do your research, and don't let your emotions rule you.