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It’s not a tragedy to be misunderstood

Once upon a time I considered it a great tragedy when people misunderstood me.

I would argue for hours on end in an effort to show why I was justified in having the particular set of sensitivities, tastes, and opinions that belonged to me.

Now I place a higher priority on being personally satisfied with how I lead my life rather than on convincing others that my worldview is congruent with whatever their definition of righteousness happens to be.

If I didn’t have a personal legacy I was hell-bent on fulfilling, I would most surely take the time to refute my enemies and silence my critics.

But a good creator must never confuse his work with the arguments he sets forth for why he does the work he does.

No amount of defending will ever amount to creating nor will any amount of explaining ever satisfy those who are not themselves busy creating.

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  1. Once upon a time I too fretted about being misunderstood. And the long debates that emanated from that perspective. I can relate!

    Your above insights and observations about this are so valid.

    I think we strive for visibility from the people around us. Yet a wall of words
    gets in the way.

    Once I stopped trying to convince others of my POV, I observed a healthier dynamic surfacing. I became more focused on monitoring myself and trying to explain my point/s, NOT convince. With the reciprocal courtesy of trying to understand the other person’s point/s. A tangible, negative pressure lifted.

    Allowing ourselves the freedom and latitude to do that. And finding people
    who honor that code of conduct.

    Too many times people argue important issues, but from a chasm, not a bridge.

    Conversations can become communications and energize the experience.
    Striving to be visible to others, not expecting it from others. While also
    endeavoring to make those others visible to me.

    Ever observe 3 people argue about a trunk? One means a suitcase, the second
    means an elephant’s nose and the third means the rear compartment of a car.

    Imagine the misunderstandings that can occur when discussing more abstract ideas!

    We don’t live in a vacuum, so we do want the enjoyment from the give and
    take of stimulating ideas that bring us to stimulating people.

    Much like you do, T.K. And those others who share in your posts.

    We don’t measure the quality of a relationship, or a nation, when everyone agrees. It’s what happens after we disagree that proclaims our pedigree.

    Wanted to respond earlier but my business became unexpectedly hectic for
    a while.

    Off topic: I haven’t forgotten about the question/s I have about the New Age
    esoteric comments I made in a prior post. Still pondering.

    Regards,

    Alana

    1. Gee, do I relate, Alana.

      I love and have grown quite a bit through healthy debate and philosophical conversation, but there is a subtle difference between constructive dialogue and the psychological need to have other people agree with your point of view. I had to learn to set myself free from that.

      I like the analogy about the 3 people arguing over a trunk. Those kinds of debates have taught me develop a sensitivity towards semantics and the relativity of obviousness that I will always value.

      No worries about getting busy. Comment/converse when you can. i know how it is.

      Regarding your questions/comments about the new-age/esoteric stuff, I wrote something in reply to you in the comments of that post. I don’t know if you saw it yet, but it may help clarify some of my philosophical underpinnings a bit.

      I look forward to conversing with you on that topic.

      Cheers,

      TK

      1. Yes, T.K. I did read your reply and you gave me even more to ponder.

        For now, some observations:

        Unyielding about skepticism?

        “I’ve never really had a firm place to stand and I can’t say I’ve been unhappy without one. I’ve been surfing wildly in the unstable seas of skepticism for a long time now.” Sounds like a firm stand on having no firm stand….?

        How do you avoid drowning? (Not metaphorically.)

        In epistemological suspended animation, perhaps? Still formulating a
        philosophical focus?

        “Moreover, I’m not interested in figuring out what to believe. ”

        Belief in skepticism? Intransigent doubt?

        Hmm-mm-mm….

        I think there is a false alternative between skepticism and a belief.

        What is the alternative?

        Whenever we talk, whenever we write, we are revealing a philosophical
        position, whether conscious or not.

        Ah-h-h. Now we’ve done it.

        To be continued….

        Alana

        1. This is going to be fun 🙂

          I enjoy meeting your mind in this delightful philosophical space.

          You challenge and encourage me in only constructive ways.

          Alright, let me dive in…

          Unyielding about skepticism?

          I wouldn’t describe myself as unyielding about skepticism, but as unworried by skepticism. There are a variety of psychological responses people have to the experience of doubting or not-knowing. Some people feel despair. Some people get anxious. Some people get frightened. And there are possibly many many more reactions to it. For me, I do not feel troubled by the doubts I have about certain claims to knowledge nor does skepticism produce any sense of despair or hopelessness in me. I feel a rich combination of peace, excitement, wonder, and awe when I am in a state of unknowing.

          The brand of skepticism with which I identify is not the kind that refuses to know at all costs….as if to say, “I think it’s cooler to be the guy who never knows anything, therefore I will always take the skeptical position EVEN IF the evidence points to knowledge.” I regard that as a rather silly and superficial game that is best played without my participation. I do my best to follow the arguments/evidence wherever it leads. BUT if I do not know something, I wont pretend to know it. That’s just being honest not unyielding.

          “I’ve never really had a firm place to stand and I can’t say I’ve been unhappy without one. I’ve been surfing wildly in the unstable seas of skepticism for a long time now.” Sounds like a firm stand on having no firm stand….?

          For me skepticism is not a prescription that I follow, but simply a description of the fact that there are many things I do not claim to know. But I am not committed to skepticism as a position. I am simply honest with myself and others about the gaps in my knowledge. For example, I don’t know who killed JFK. I’ve heard the mainstream story and I’ve heard many conspiracy theories. I’ve also met and spoke with many people who strongly believe they know who killed him. As for me, I haven’t heard anything that compels me to believe one theory over another. Now, I am not determined to remain a skeptic on this issue. I just happen to be a skeptic because I do not claim to know who killed JFK. I am open to the possibility that I may one day hear an argument that convinces me of the identity of his killer(s). I am also open to the possibility that I may never hear anything that seems persuasive to me. But I am neither committed to my doubts in any sort of dogmatic way nor am I troubled by doubts in any sort of psychological way.

          Here’s another useful point: I make the distinction between two brands of skepticism–Radical/Absolute Skepticism vs Moderate/Relative Skepticism. Radical/Absolute Skepticism claims that we cannot know anything except for the fact that we cannot know anything. This is a very strong position that regards all claims to knowledge (save one’s own ignorance, of course) as dubious. Moderate/Relative Skepticism is an attitude of doubt, non-belief, or suspension of judgment that one has relative to certain claims. The claims towards which one’s skepticism is relative varies from one skeptic to another. I am only a skeptic in the moderate/relative sense. That is, I have an epistemic relationship of doubt, non-belief, or suspension of judgment towards many aspects of knowledge, but not all. And furthermore, I am open to the possibility that my skepticism about some matters may wane if and/or when I become aware of that which I am currently unaware.

          Skepticism is also used to convey an attitude that engages all ideas, even commonsensical ones, from a default state of subjecting them to critical thinking prior to intellectual assent. This would also describe my brand of skepticism.

          How do you avoid drowning? (Not metaphorically.)

          I have already fallen off my surfboard and been submerged underwater long enough for me to completely lose my fear that I am going to die of drowning. Okay, that’s not fair because I am being metaphorical here. But I guess I’m not sure what this question means when I try to interpret it literally. So I’ll just ask: what is this drowning experience that I need to avoid? Are you asking me how do I keep from going crazy? becoming depressed? How do I protect myself from being manipulated by con artists, seduced by cults, etc?

          In epistemological suspended animation, perhaps? Still formulating a philosophical focus?

          I wouldn’t describe myself that way. Although I hate to pin myself down by label(s), I actually do have some very specific theories of knowledge. If I had to identify with a position, if you will, I would describe my epistemology as a meticulously crafted hybrid of experientialism (articulated very well by George Lakeoff in “Metaphors we live by”), fictionalism, relativism, and pragmatism.

          In a nutshell, I regard all forms of conceptualization and verbalization as processes in which we construct metaphorical maps for chartering and navigating our experiences. I consider “Thought” to be essentially and inherently metaphorical. I regard “Truth”, in the ordinary sense of the word (if there is such a thing), as an attribute of propositions that is relative to a conceptual system. So, I regard all belief systems (including my own), from Science to Greek Mythology, as varied systems of interrelated metaphors/representational maps. It is this understanding/belief that allows me to pick and choose from various contradictory worldviews because I am only (in my worldview, of course) playing games of metaphor…EVEN when I take some of those games very seriously.

          “Moreover, I’m not interested in figuring out what to believe. ” Belief in skepticism? Intransigent doubt?

          No, I just don’t really identify with the whole “seeker” paradigm. I’m not a troubled soul. I don’t feel lost. My heart isn’t filled with unrest. I’m having a delightful time exploring ideas for the sake of the thrill I gather from analyzing concepts and experimenting with various ideas. While I mostly identify myself as a philosopher (a combination of habit and academic training), it would probably be more accurate if I used the label psychonaut. There are a few extant definitions of that term, but I define a psychonaut as the soul’s version of an astronaut. Just as an astronaut explores the realm of outer space, a psychonaut explores the inner space of consciousness using various tools such as meditation, introspection, conversations like what we’re having, etc. When I say, I am not interested in figuring out what to believe, I simply mean that I am gleefully busy exploring ideas and I don’t require there to be any payoff beyond the joy i feel from doing so. Sometimes, my explorations lead to new and revised beliefs about certain matters, but that’s a luxury to me. I’m just playing a bunch of metaphorical games in an effort to “win” my larger metaphorical game of using metaphors to help myself and others get more joy out of life. I do not play this larger metaphorical game of trying to help myself and others procure more joy because I think it’s the right thing to do (although I do, at times, find the “spiritual destiny” metaphor to be quite motivating). I do it because I enjoy that game like no other.

          “Whenever we talk, whenever we write, we are revealing a philosophical position, whether conscious or not.”

          I agree. Hopefully I have clarified four things:

          1) That I DO have some very specific philosophical positions about the relationship between thoughts/concepts/beliefs and reality.
          2) That I am conscious of them.
          3) That my skepticism is neither absolute or “position-less”
          4) That my skepticism is both subject to skeptical scrutiny and relative to only certain claims to knowledge.

          This is fun 🙂

          Can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

          1. Thanks (again) for your input, T.K. Even more to ponder….

            You’re not hesitant to dive into the deep end, to continue your
            metaphor. Very brave.

            Still making observations.

            Although you prefer psychonaut, I think we’re still essentially talking
            about philosophy. You have the poet in you.

            Reminds me of Swinburne: “And life is a watch or a vision, between a
            sleep and a sleep.”

            I can understand your concern about labels. Getting to know another
            person is not a one-dimensional undertaking. Understanding another’s
            ideological make-up is multi-dimensional. Leads one down a labyrinth of
            layers. Longitudes and latitudes. While respecting personal boundaries.

            I think it was Blake who wrote: “It is most difficult to maintain true
            friends, especially among equals.” (Quoting from memory.) I’ve
            thought about this often over the years.

            Ultimately though, how would you like to be defined? If you considered
            yourself visible what would be your defining characteristics? That unique
            you? Would there be a synthesis of your private self and your public
            persona? (Rather than a breach?) Optional question.

            As an aside:
            Even the most boring person is still more interesting than the most lively
            animal. Because I can start to ask myself why the psychological posture
            of boredom? Why is this person navigating his life this way? What does
            he (or she) think it will protect them from?

            The “trunk” example I think of as more about definitions than semantics.

            Aristotle observed that the quality of our lives, our future and our
            civilization will rise and fall on the quality of our definitions. His first
            axiom A is A. The Law of Identity.

            Recalling that Aristotle’s laws of logic laid down the foundation for all
            future science, medicine, the wonders of the modern world. And why
            we’re here.

            He would also add that: “The more abstract the idea, the more we
            have to seduce the senses to it.” And that is fun.

            At this point Nietzsche would caution: “Strive for clarity. Don’t muddy
            your waters to make them appear deep.”

            The two main branches of philosophy are established as:
            metaphysics (the nature of reality) and epistemology (theory of
            knowledge—how do we come to know what we know and how do we
            validate our knowledge.) The other 3 branches will be contingent on
            the pedigree of the 2 main ones. Ethics (code of morality to guide us,
            politics (how man shall live in a society amongst other men) and
            esthetics (art.)

            That science is not a primary. It’s caliber will rise and fall depending on
            the philosophy underpinning it. Agree with you not to believe in it
            blindly.

            Are there any absolutes that guide your multitude of ideas?

            Are you certain of anything?

            Is everything subjective? Or are there some objective criteria?

            Are you concerned about being “boxed in” ideologically? Of being wrong
            and not aware of it?

            When would you elevate a working hypothesis into a ruling theory? Or
            as Aristotle would ask: “When can you generalize from particulars?” So
            that one’s knowledge starts to grow on solid building blocks.

            Still pondering….To be continued….

            Since we’re in the free exchange of ideas, no obligation to answer
            anything, of course.

            Regards, Alana

            1. You’re not hesitant to dive into the deep end, to continue your
              metaphor. Very brave.

              Thank you.

              Although you prefer psychonaut, I think we’re still essentially talking
              about philosophy.

              Agreed. The psychonautic adventure is a preferred metaphorical frame within which I practice the discipline of philosophy, but yes, we are most definitely involved in a philosophical undertaking here. We’re on the same page.

              You have the poet in you.

              I’m flattered by that association. Many a poet have I loved. I hope the poetic spirit possesses me more fully.

              Reminds me of Swinburne: “And life is a watch or a vision, between a
              sleep and a sleep.”

              That’s beautiful….and deep. I have to let that one sink in.

              I can understand your concern about labels. Getting to know another
              person is not a one-dimensional undertaking. Understanding another’s
              ideological make-up is multi-dimensional. Leads one down a labyrinth of
              layers. Longitudes and latitudes. While respecting personal boundaries.

              I appreciate your sensitivity and your appreciation for nuance regarding such matters.

              Ultimately though, how would you like to be defined? If you considered
              yourself visible what would be your defining characteristics? That unique
              you? Would there be a synthesis of your private self and your public
              persona? (Rather than a breach?) Optional question.

              I think it would be somewhere between philosopher and psychonaut, honestly. I suppose I would like to be remembered as one who worshipped at the altar of wonder; one who lived his life in perpetual enamorment with possibility; A philosopher in the sense that I find great joy in contemplating the great questions of life. A psychonaut in the sense that I enjoy dancing with, singing with, and making love to the mystery which is life. Does that answer the question?

              The “trunk” example I think of as more about definitions than semantics.

              That’s what I understood it to be. I know the term semantics is used in a lot of ways, which is quite ironic, but I only meant “semantics” in the sense of that branch of linguistics that deals with the meaning of terms. I agree with what you’re saying here.

              The two main branches of philosophy are established as:
              metaphysics (the nature of reality) and epistemology (theory of
              knowledge—how do we come to know what we know and how do we
              validate our knowledge.) The other 3 branches will be contingent on
              the pedigree of the 2 main ones. Ethics (code of morality to guide us,
              politics (how man shal

              I would have to contend for adding Logic/Critical Reasoning to your categories for the main branches of Philosophy. This may seem a moot point, but I think it becomes paramount when discussions on the relevance of Philosophy arise.

              Are there any absolutes that guide your multitude of ideas?

              hmmm. This is a tough question. If by absolutes, you mean “are there any beliefs that are beyond questioning for you”, my answer would be “no.” Everything is up for inquiry in my world. But i don’t think that’s what you mean. Yet, I am having difficulty knowing what you mean. I suppose you could say my life is guided by things like personal conviction, tastes, self-interests, private moral sensitivities, etc, but those are just subjective features of my individuality. I can’t think of any absolutes in the sense that I have some beliefs that I think are objectively true independently of the conceptual system of which those beliefs are a part. BUT that doesn’t mean my behavior is random. That doesn’t mean, for instance, that I am just as likely to insult someone as I am to give them a handshake. I have personal boundaries, disgusts, intuitions, moral standards, etc. It’s just that none of these things are posited as absolutes in the sense of them being rooted in universal truths that apply to all people, all cultures, and all systems of thinking.

              On another note, I’m also not so sure if having absolutes gives one any advantages over not having them. But perhaps that can be another discussion.

              Are you certain of anything?

              I am certain that it is impossible to utter a proposition that violates the laws of logic without self-contradiction. If one wishes think or reason at all, he must presuppose the laws of logic and their derived rules of inference (ie. identity, non-contradiction, exclusive middle, etc.)

              Whether or not these laws apply to anything other than our own ontological structure is a different question. I am not certain that the laws of logic correspond to reality, but I am certain that all meaningful propositions and all rational thought must presuppose the validity of such laws.

              I suppose you could say I find Descartes “cogito” argument convincing (buddhist objections notwithstanding). I am certain that, in some sense of the word, I exists (or that self-awareness is present).

              Is everything subjective? Or are there some objective criteria?

              I believe that there are realities that lie beyond the boundaries of my sense of individuality. So, in that sense, I posit the existence of “the other” or an objective world. But the certainty i can have about the objective world is very different from the certainty I can have about my subjective experiences. I can know that I have a headache with greater confidence than I can know that YOU have a headache.

              Are you concerned about being “boxed in” ideologically? Of being wrong
              and not aware of it?

              Of being boxed in? no. I accept that society will box me in in terms of how they categorize me no matter what I do. I am careful, however, to make sure that I don’t limit myself from living an authentic and free life by getting caught up in personal brands, images, and personas. Being wrong? no. Here’s another thing I feel certain of: right now, at this moment, i am wrong about something and I don’t even know it. There are assumptions in my worldview that are showing up as realities in my life and one day I will see through those assumptions for the first time and I’ll experience yet another degree of freedom. i love being wrong. More importantly, I love when I discover the new possibilities that being wrong kept me from seeing.

              My writing time is running out. I’ll write more later.

              Cheers

              1. Deeply appreciate your thoughtful posts on philosophy. This last one above is
                excellent and getting closer to the wellspring of human thought and action.

                Agreed that I could be more specific on some important points such as
                absolutism and certainty. Will definitely elaborate in near future. Really
                think your answer on certainty is excellent and getting somewhere very
                productive. You are positing an objective reality. Wonderful. (I can let
                some of my breath out.)

                “I would have to contend for adding Logic/Critical Reasoning to your categories for the main branches of Philosophy. This may seem a moot point, but I think it becomes paramount when discussions on the relevance of Philosophy arise. ”

                I would subsume above under Epistemology. And indeed Logic and Critical
                Thinking are paramount. Perhaps it is the intellectual’s task (the thinking
                man) to strive to show that the laws of logic correspond to reality. (A fresh
                take on the ties that bind?)

                Have you read “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Her journey from the indoctrinated
                insular world of Somali tribalism, forced circumcision, arranged marriage, to a
                university education in the West and her deep regard for Critical Thinking and Liberty is awe inspiring. The world is a better place for having her in it.

                With Metaphysics (the fundamental nature of existence, of man and of man’s
                relationship to existence) and Epistemology (the theory of knowledge which studies man’s means of cognition) we are trying to establish our “ground rules”
                if you will.

                3 vital questions involved: Where am I? How do I know it? What should I do?
                I believe this is the quest for those who haven’t lost their curiosity about our
                intellectual life. Those who lost their yearning to think deeply raise a very
                interesting question as to why.*** A topic for another time, perhaps.

                That may bring us to Descartes. “Cogito ergo sum.” I think therefore I am.
                Despite his earnest efforts to lay the groundwork for man’s knowledge, he
                reversed to laws of gravity in epistemology .

                Sum ergo cogito. I am therefore I should think. Thus launches an ideological
                search. Can knowledge be objective? Apart from one’s own mind, can a
                thing be true, independent of one’s thinking? Water is wet whether I acknow-
                ledge this or not. I could drown in deeper water, whether I acknowledge this
                or not.

                I have been around intellectuals, business/salesmen and trades people most
                of my life. Today, if you’re looking for deep thinkers, it’s in the trades. Such
                as mechanic, machinist, welder, etc. Not the intellectuals. The majority of
                them use words to darken, obfuscate and obscure. Hence I refer to them as
                intelligentsia. They are in the modern publicly funded educational system
                and churn out classrooms of students who become our media, politicians,
                lawyers, professors, teachers, spokesmen, etc. With large fears and small
                minds. I’m referring to the humanities subjects. They remain unconvinced
                and unconvincing.***

                “There are no absolutes,” they boast aggressively. (Stated as an absolute.)
                “There are no certainties,” they add. (Stated as a certainty.)

                If we had to market ideas, who would listen? Could we sell others on the idea
                of ideas being crucial to everyday life? That is the challenge. It would seem
                you have the capacity for that.

                Would like to take up the “headache” example another time. Before we do that, we’d have to concede we have a human body, with a head, and a pain in
                the head. Perhaps, inductive reasoning. If I go to sleep and the ground outside
                is dry and I wake up and there’s snow on the ground, I can infer through simple
                inductive reasoning that it snowed while I slept. Pain can be a different unit
                of measurement. If I have a headache and tell you, you could believe me
                based on context, who I am, how well you know me and if I tell the truth.

                Well, I’ve digressed a bit, haven’t I. But your posts do summon up many
                thoughts. I see 2 T.K.s. One grounded in reason and mysticism. Is this
                perhaps a dichotomy?

                Continue to enjoy many of your posts. You have a unique perspective. As
                much as you don’t want to be limited any longer by just tough minded
                optimism, you are also that. A well earned state of mind. Suspect that
                despite many obstacles and some dark nights, your spirit thrives.

                To be continued…. Again, realize that neither of us can always respond in a
                prompt manner. That being said, you have been very expeditious overall.
                Shouldn’t be obligatory anyway.

                Warm regards,

                Alana

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