Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Life of a Conversation. Soul of a Discussion. Sense in a Debate

I ALWAYS enjoyed talking with “older” people who I must concede, people with longer life's experience than me, and people who are knowledgeable about a certain subject—carpenters, journalists, artists, economists, scientists, engineers, teachers, junkyard artisans, doctors, shamans, farmers, veteran soldiers etc. Meanwhile, I also dig talking with activists who are equipped with insights based on documented facts and historical info and not opinions based on personal advocacy or belief, religion or ideology. There is always sweet resolution in talking with the former—since although I may not agree with the person, for sure I could learn valuable facts and figures that I could use to ponder a more objective worldview. However, spending time with the latter who could only give me intense individual take on a certain matter without supporting it with stuff and things that seem logical or shared by 7 out of 10 at least, only slide to senseless argument.  

       Days ago, I listened to a man I call Absolom, a kind of dude who seemed like someone that you may not spend time with because he keeps a dishevelled house and doesn't seem comfortable with a clean shirt, but quick to say what he wants and doesn't want (“I don't do Facebook!”) This man talked and talked and talked yet those technical/scientific info and historical perspectives that he shared in few minutes equalled 5 hours of wikipedia time—and more credible because he didn't impose on me the veracity of such facts. He just talked and let me figure them out based on my own available knowledge. Take `em or leave `em. 
       I'd like to talk to people who got something to say and not those who got a lot to disagree about. That person could be a Jehovah's Witness, Maoist radical, pagan goddess, confederate flag loyalist, Ananda Marga initiate, Filipino, Cuban, Iranian, or redneck. I don't care. Just talk and give me some facts and scientific/physical equivalent of such a talk. For example, this axiom that says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” which is attributed to the Maimonides and the Chinese sage Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism, and also mentioned in The Bible's Ephesians 4:28 and Matthew 14:15-21... That adage exudes a kind of lecture but it also tells me something that I can find concrete benefit from as a person, no matter what my personal ideology or religion is. Such lines aren't dismissive of one's personal or cultural life. Well, unless one vegetarian reader literally defines “fish” as, well—fish fillet. 
       Moreover, I believe that when people talk about other peoples of the universe, we must know why those people act or behave the way they do before we tell them what they need to do just because we believe we know better. Worse, some people conclude weird stuff just because they don't know. I was once told by an acquaintance that she was convinced that a super-delicious meat dish that she ate in China was so unbelievably awesome that she came to conclusion that the culinary offering was actually human flesh! The Chinese chef didn't reveal how it was cooked so she simply dismissed it as cannibal buffet, LOL! There was also another friend who heard about a boy who fell off a boat in India in one religious river festival and drowned when people failed to rescue him. Immediately she concluded that those people in India didn't care about human lives by virtue of their religion. 
       Of course those are the extremes. Yet we will always encounter stuff and things in other cultures that could be revolting or atrocious to our own personal liking. The world isn't one color, you see... But I wish people take time to know. Let us equip ourselves with knowledge because knowledge offers us a sense of respect with/to the other person who is seemingly different from us. Knowing them means we may also learn how to communicate with them better. And if whatever we share them is universally good, then they may listen—but take time to know them first. 

      The root of many wars is because the discussion on the negotiating table fell apart. People don't agree because one or both desire to be on top of the other, telling the other he/she is wrong or needs to be corrected. If people compromise by exploring the benefits of a union between diverse peoples and accentuate the positive points than the negative points, then we have peace. But we can't go moving about telling people we are Christians or Socialists to those who are not and say they are wrong. We ain't gonna go far from that kind of thinking. Yet in time, maybe they will find such new paradigm good—but not at a time when they got priorities to deal with. Historically, if colonizers first offered silk for yam as a friendly trade and it went good, then they could have carried on to a deeper cultural interface. But if the visitor outrightly tells the tribes to quit the “shadow dance” because the Christian church is more civilized. Then there is war.
      I like Absolom because despite me coming from a different world, there was no question or mention that made me feel like I am not American. He talked to me like I am just like him who knows 70s rock `n roll. Simple. When we meet people with "new" lives and cultures from our own, let us not go teaching them what is best to breathe the air or eat Twinkies correctly. Let them be. Maybe their song is sweet, too.  Focus on stuff that you find mutually cool and not those that you find weird or bizarre. Maybe teach them how to sell their produce via the internet or a new irrigation technique but never admonish them about a certain cultural truth or ritual. Culture creates people's soul. You don't want to mess with people's culture. Just be cool and they will be cool. 

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