Thinking about why ideas matter – why we argue, wanting others to see our point of view and make it their own – is it that we all seek for our personal perspective to be accepted and acknowledged as a common truth? Maybe that’s simply communication? Needing our thoughts to be voiced, heard, and understood within that shared space (Notes One).
What, then, are our thoughts? Maybe each person’s simply joining the dots with their minds: taking the facts, experiences, events or elements of “life” then creating narratives of causality around those points to, hopefully, establish a coherent sense of meaning. Everything coming together as our own, personal “picture” of what it’s all about and how best to live.
Of course, we all have distinct areas of experience, interest or expertise: those things we know better, care about more, or feel most need to be changed. Often, though, it seems we all might be trying to superimpose “our picture” over that of others. Each encounter being a chance to “correct” the significance someone else might’ve assigned to the elements of their worldview.
Is that why conversations can come across as personal attacks? If our ideas arise from our experiences – the meaning we’ve been able to piece together and make our own – aren’t the conclusions we’ve reached part and parcel of who we are and how we’ve navigated life up to this point? “Correcting” another’s viewpoint is perhaps always going to be confronting. How can anyone speak into that reality?
Not to say people can’t be wrong or there isn’t truth to be found (Notes Two), but how can we go about uncovering it? Nestled as it might be within the intricacies of our lives, how do we respect another’s experiences while also challenging their conclusions? Is it possible to separate the two and say it isn’t personal?
Who’s to say someone’s experiences and ideas are “wrong”? If this is what people carry within them – the moments they’ve lived, lessons they’ve learnt, meanings they’ve spun to manage – maybe we all just experience the many different sides of life. Coming to see things through other eyes, our own perspective might be greatly enriched. If all these viewpoints stand within our world, shouldn’t they matter?
We might get impatient – caught up in the clarity of our own insight, wanting others to accept it so life can proceed on that basis – but can mutual understanding be rushed? What does it “mean” to brush another’s ideas – the meaning that emerged for them out of the felt realities of their lives – away and ask them to go with ours? Should we rush ahead at “our” pace, or pause to ensure everything’s truly working well?
Does the truth of each experience need to be heard? Within society, does each human reality matter? Can other’s lives be folded into other ideas of what’s a valid path of “progress”? Given the complex, often hidden, nature of modern systems, maybe it’s really important that we listen to those affected by it all.
Notes and References:
Note 1: Frameworks of how we relate
Note 1: True relationship within society?
Note 1: Going towards the unknown
Note 2: Do we need meaning?
Note 2: Thoughts of idealism and intolerance
Note 2: Imperfection as perfection?
Note 2: What it is to be human