I have this dear friend. I’m nuts about this guy and his sharp, intellectual, deeply thoughtful mind and his kind and tender heart. We were recently having a philosophical disagreement – a very heated, but interesting meta-ethical debate about helping others, goodness, and the nature of moral judgements. At first, I thought we were both enjoying the mental challenge of trading opposing opinions. He gave me a few details about a project he’s developing. I thought perhaps he shared the specific details he did, so that he could gauge my response … he’s smart like that. If they passed muster with the highly sensitive, super-empathic, INFJ chick, then these particular details would probably pass muster with anyone. However, it’s pretty obvious that wasn’t his objective since our conversation went off in a ditch … a deep ditch … a ditch so so deep. He said I was uninformed. It wasn’t a data point for him. My strong feeling-based opinion was interpreted as a judgement against him as a person. That could not be further from the truth … I don’t like parts of the idea, but I do like him very much. Even if I hated the entire idea (which I don’t), it wouldn’t change how I feel about him a bit. I failed to convince him of that.
You should know … I’m coming at it from a very empathic bent that most people cannot understand or identify with … I feel other’s pain even if I’m nowhere near them. Seriously, it borders on clairempathy. It’s what has made me a vegetarian for the last 30 years of my life. Though I don’t expect others to feel the same … my empathy prevents me from placing an expectation to comply upon others. Everyone is entitled to choose for themselves. I’m nearly incapable of even killing bugs that get into my home. I feel that since I didn’t create them, I have no right to destroy them simply because they had the misfortune of crossing my path. My feelings inform my choices and even … yes … my reason. My sentiment interferes with decision making at times because I will sacrifice in ways that may not yield my greatest good. Thank God not everyone in the world is like me or we’d be overrun with bugs and all species of plants and animals and weeds. It would inadvertently and unintentionally create another kind of suffering … which would pain my bleeding heart. It’s a vicious cycle. I don’t know how to change that and even if I did, honestly, I wouldn’t want to. I value it in myself and I believe it is valuable in this world. My friend knows all of this about me so very well, in some important ways maybe better than anyone, so my reaction should not have been a surprise. I’m thankful that he is not me and you are not me and I am not you. I think there is immense dignity in respecting our differences and those differences keep things in balance and make good things happen. I am happy to let you be you and still appreciate you even if your opinions and choices don’t always align with mine. Can you let me be me? Can you value me as I am even if my point of view sometimes makes no sense to you?
I think it’s a pretty significant discussion as it relates to the current struggles the world seems to be experiencing. Can we, as caring people, engage in a philosophical discussion around being of service to others, about goodness, about how to motivate the masses to help others and to help themselves, can we engage open-mindedly about any particular thing? Can we share our different approaches in our mutual effort toward a common good? I sure as hell hope so … otherwise we only create a boringly limited approach to important change … a “tyranny of homogeneity” as I recently read in Maria Popova’s blog Brain Pickings. As Saul Bellow said …
Goodness is not achieved in a vacuum, but in the company of other men, attended by love.
Saul Bellow also said this …
Everybody knows there is no fineness or accuracy of suppression; if you hold down one thing, you hold down the adjoining.
In other words, we need each other in all our vast and varied differences to achieve big goals … suppressing or streamlining opinions to only include the ones that sound familiar, restricts the big goal from reaching its fullest potential. Amazing results could still be derived, but imagine the magnitude of what could be accomplished by carefully considering all points of view … ways a single mind doesn’t process information … and incorporating aspects, where and if possible, of those dissenting … a perspective think tank, a mastermind group based on cooperative opposition … into the whole big beautiful hopeful plan. To be so confident and comfortable in one’s veracity as to be capable of that kind of openness … that is the secret sauce, magical thinking, deep dive to true, real, heart-led progress. To be accepted in THAT realm is my jam, as they say. I want to be a part of that kind of good genius. I want to be around those kind of geniuses investing in a goal that includes THAT kind of creative wholehearted loving approach toward ultimate truth. For goodness sake.