This blog may be covering something that has been in existence since man began to speak, I may be more sensitive to this issue as I have grown older, or both! The title of this blog may be recognized as a Buddhist admonition before speaking or writing something for others to read. Due to the length of what I want to say about this concept, I will be breaking this statement down into three separate blogs.
Unfortunately, I find the question, “is it necessary” to usually not even be in the realm of consciousness, much less utilized. We have all run into people who are either talking to themselves out loud, such that it can be heard by those within several feet around them, or to those who seem to talk incessantly about anything that comes to their mind. This latter point reminds me of a wonderful saying I heard a couple of summers ago, “Your mouth does not have to repeat everything your mind thinks!” I am not really blogging about these folks, but all us “normal” people.
While I will go into what the mind thinks in further detail in the next blog, we have to keep in mind (pun intended!) it as not a free thinker. Our bodies, emotions, and thoughts are all a product of our past experiences in life. No one is born a racist, abuser, liar, cheat, etc., these and everything else that we think and feel are all learned first in our home, at school, and then as we interact with everyone in the world.
The mind is a meaning-making machine. Unfortunately, all of the initial meanings that we place on our experiences early in our childhood are done with a child’s simplistic mind. The mind then looks at every subsequent experience to determine if it is something new or fits into a paradigm that has already been set up. Our ego then, in order to validate what we “know to be true,” seeks like-minded companions or sets about convincing everyone else they are wrong.
Hence, we speak and write about things that are not necessary. When others speak or write, we do not usually listen or read to really understand the other’s point of view, we almost immediately begin to form a reply. Not only have we not use the mind’s ability to possibly integrate new ideas; we do not even use its ability to thoughtfully reply.
Further complicating this lack of true communication is laziness. It takes time and effort to truly communicate effectively with others, constantly perception checking, and engaging in an unemotional dialogue. Speaking what is necessary in short sentences is hard for many of us and I’m not even addressing those people we know who go on and on and on so they don’t even have to hear the other persons ideas. Speaking even three separate ideas in a short statement tends to engender a response to only one of the ideas, meaning the other two truly were not necessary.
Perception checking means the listener repeats back what they think they heard and asked is this what the speaker meant. Talk about making for a stilted conversation! However, I am always surprised at how even seemingly easily understood statements can be heard incorrectly. Finally, we rarely engage in an unemotional dialogue. Now, of course, I am not suggesting that we should not be passionate about what we discuss. What I am talking about is when someone inadvertently gores one of our beloved ideas causing us to become angry. That anger automatically engages the limbic brain, shutting off the prefrontal cortex, and rendering our higher cognitive functioning useless.
It is this latter emotional state that we so assiduously try to avoid and drives us into like-minded groups. Unfortunately, doing this locks us into a closed system. That is where the feedback we want is fed back to us, which we think then validates what we just said, convincing us that, naturally, we were right all along!
This can be accomplished by only talking to like-minded friends, reading only those magazines and books that support our ideas, and watching or reading news sources that agree with us. It is both scary and hard to truly listen to an opposing point of view, not make any comments at that time, and to contemplate its validity.
This blog came about when to friend on Facebook posted some talking points on liberalism. I took exception, as the liberalism of today does not match up with the liberalism I grew up with. Back then, we welcomed and even defended divergent speech, even when it was offensive (ACLU) and we did not try to stifle speech. We were civil in the face of intolerance, trying to educate a racist, not calling them one, much less throwing that ugly word around for political gain as seems too often to be the case today. Liberals read William F. Buckley and listened to Barry Goldwater as well as Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal, not booing and creating disturbances to keep those whose ideas that did not match ours from giving speeches.
It seems to me that if we would apply this first section, “is it necessary?” to all we say and write, we would all enjoy respectful, well thought out, and interesting ideas no matter where on the spectrum they fell.