Saturday, July 12, 2008

Being Hard on People

Some people ask why I am so hard on certain unnamed bloggers, and that is why: because they assault the very foundation of conservatism, even if their intentions are good.
--Gagdad Bob

I don't know if I'm one of the "unnamed bloggers" to whom Bob was referring, but I do know that my conscious "intentions are good" when I criticize some aspects of political conservatism, just as I believe, or would like to believe, that Gagdad's conscious intentions are good when he criticizes those he perceives as "assaulting the very foundation of conservatism."

Yet, Bob and I differ on how we think people with good intentions that we perceive as wrong or misguided should be treated. Bob seems to think that he knows the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and that it's perfectly okay to "be hard on"--i.e., mock and disparage-- those who see things differently from how he does. On the other hand, I believe that we should not only strive to regard and treat everyone with respect as a fellow human being and as an instantiation of the divine, no matter how much we may disagree with his opinions and actions, but also that our best chance of helping everyone to find the whole and full truth is to treat everyone respectfully, no matter how much we disagree with him. This may help to open his heart and ours to dialog rather than keep us ensnared in oneupmanship put-downs and debate, and dialog is a pathway to the whole and complete truth.

I believe that there is truth in political conservatism, an example of which is that values are more important than liberals acknowledge in determining people's behaviors and economic, emotional, and spiritual "prosperity." But I also believe that there is truth in political liberalism, an example of which is that government can and should play a larger role than conservatives acknowledge in creating optimal conditions for the broadest spectrum and greatest number of people to develop values and find the other means necessary to achieve the aforementioned prosperity.

But if conservatives keep being "hard on"--i.e., keep insulting and vilifying--liberals or "leftists," and liberals keep being hard on conservatives instead of each affording the other enough kindness and respect to open-mindedly and open-heartedly communicate with each other, then each side is going to miss out on important truth and to needlessly ensure that rancorous if not destructive disagreement and conflict never ceases.

I believe that if someone has bad intentions, we can criticize or oppose his beliefs or actions without vilifying him as a person, even if it would be pointless to try to dialog with him. But if someone has good intentions but believes or does things we regard as wrong, not only should we treat him respectfully and kindly as a person even if we oppose what he says and does, but it may also be constructive to engage him in dialog.

Yet, how can we do this if we're caught up in "being hard" on him?

31 comments:

ned said...

As far as I can tell, Gagdad can't be bothered to truly live the path he extols intellectually. I wouldn't even consider him a true representative of the Christian tradition -- I have friends who are Christian mystics who are really put off by some of Gagdad's commentary on his blog (one mystical Christian friend described him as an "egocentric misogynist patriarchal hierarchichal keeper of the keys").

Christ was known for his deep compassion and unconditional love for all. He would spend time with the sick, prostitutes, and various social outcastes. He was harsh only with self-righteous moralists. From what I've read of the "One Cosmos" blog, this sort of love barely radiates from it except in rare moments. I wouldn't take him so seriously if I were you.

I also think liberals ought to dialogue with conservatives -- in fact I try to do the same thing myself. I do think that the Truth transcends both these perspectives. But there is no point in dialoguing with people who are only interested in pushing an agenda or ideology, or just being plain old nasty (which is what Gagdad does).

Here's an excellent comparison of dialogue and debate, which explains why the former is so much more productive than the latter:
http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-dialogue.html

However, few people have the self-control and discipline needed to dialogue effectively.

Nagarjuna said...

Ned--
I take Gagdad far more seriously as a conservative writer than I do as a purveyor or exemplar of spiritual truth. I do admire his effort to fashion a systematic understanding of the kosmos, but, unfortunately, the understanding he conveys seems entirely too detached from the reality he's attempting to represent, especially in its political implications, and in its elevation of alleged truth over love, it reminds me all-too-often of St. Paul's "clanging cymbal."

But I find that by reading Gagdad, I gain not only a better understanding of the conservative political and spiritual mindset, but also of my own way of seeing the world, and I believe, or would like to believe, that this leads me ever closer to vital truths.

Thank you very much for your dialogue link. I am very interested in finding a way to foster dialogue on and off the internet. So far, I've done a poor job of it, having succumbed all too often to debate. I don't know if one can dialogue on the internet or in person, but if there is a way, the website to which you referred me may help me to figure out how and to find others with the same intent.

I have also looked at your blog, added it to my bookmarks, and will be reading it in the time to come. You seem to be a wise, beyond your years, and eloquent spokesperson for an integral "path with heart."

Namaste,
Steve

ned said...

"But I find that by reading Gagdad, I gain not only a better understanding of the conservative political and spiritual mindset, but also of my own way of seeing the world, and I believe, or would like to believe, that this leads me ever closer to vital truths."

Good point. This is also why I occasionally check his blog. I like looking at both right-wing and left-wing ways of seeing things. One of the reasons I like Sri Aurobindo and the Mother so much is that they actually do a lot of right-wing/left-wing integration in their philosophy.

It's also important to learn to listen to someone with an opposing view with inner discernment, but withholding premature mental judgment. Admittedly I'm not very good at this myself; I may actually be reacting to Gagdad's blog a little because he can be so caustic and because I and other Aurobindoans have been pretty dismayed at how he misrepresents and misuses Sri Aurobindo's philosophy at times. I wish he wasn't so aggressive and caustic, because a real dialogue might actually be possible; as things stand, I'm not interested in getting into an engagement with someone who can't suspend their beliefs temporarily for the sake of a discussion. Also, there are other conservative writers much more worth looking into, e.g. Allan Bloom (author of "The Closing of the American Mind" -- have you read that one yet?).

"the understanding he conveys seems entirely too detached from the reality he's attempting to represent, especially in its political implications, and in its elevation of alleged truth over love"

Or maybe not *sufficiently* detached, in the sense that he's too identified with his thoughts and his intellectual framework, and goes on flights of fancy which have little to do with reality. His book wasn't bad btw, and I enjoyed his interview in WIE. The blog however is kind of crazy. :-P

I don't know if Gagdad thinks truth trumps love, but in the Aurobindoan framework, there are three aspects to the Divine -- Love, Wisdom and Power, represented by the three Vedantic yogas: bhakti yoga or devotional practice and love for the Divine in all, jnana or the yoga of knowledge, and karma yoga or the yoga of detached works. The integral yoga tries to integrate all three. To me it just makes no sense to divorce love and knowledge -- they go hand in hand. According to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the highest knowledge comes from identity -- when you phenomenologically merge with the Other as an act of love and self-sacrifice, then and only then do you truly have knowledge of the Other (whether a person, an animal, an inanimate object, etc.). Goethean science was actually somewhat similar to this idea.

Thanks for the kind words, I really appreciate them. I've been reading yours and Bill Harryman's blog on and off (found you guys via Alan Kazlev) and you're on my blogroll already. ;-)

Nagarjuna said...

Ned--
I see the same attempt at "integration" in the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber that you see in Aurobindo and the Mother. Admittedly, there is little or no such integration to be found in Gagdad's philosophy. His seems to be a very one-sided "truth" which he thinks he knows with absolute certainty, therefore, he not only sees no point in opening his mind and heart to dialogue with the disgustingly stupid or pathological people who don't see things his way, but he would consider it a great weakness to do this, not to mention a total waste of time to cast his pearls before swine.

But how I love the way he writes and how he tries to tie such seemingly disparate elements as psychoanalysis, spirituality, politics, music, and art together in an overarching vision of the kosmos, and, on his blog, does it extemporaneously! And I too enjoyed his WIE interview and have his book but have not yet read it because I don't think I'm adequately prepared for it yet.

You make a good point about his not being sufficiently detached from his "intellectual framework" and "flights of fancy." But this raises for me the vital epistemological question of how thorough a self-consistent philosophical system we can build and have it accurately represent the reality its intended to represent. It seems to me that Bob is striving for systemic consistency but has sacrificed truth in the process.

Yes, Gagdad has said more than once that truth is paramount and that it therefore, does indeed "trump love." If I understand you explanation of Aurobindo on this issue, he said that they, along with power, are of equal importance. I think Aurobindo is more likely correct.

I'm enjoying our discussion, Ned. I'm glad you found me and my blog, and I'm glad I found you and yours.

ned said...

His seems to be a very one-sided "truth" which he thinks he knows with absolute certainty, therefore, he not only sees no point in opening his mind and heart to dialogue with the disgustingly stupid or pathological people who don't see things his way, but he would consider it a great weakness to do this, not to mention a total waste of time to cast his pearls before swine.

Heheheh. Well he's got the market conquered on self-righteousness, at any rate. ;-)

Humility and arrogance are often indistinguishable in the way they manifest. The reasons for this are several. One: in both cases, the opinions of others scarcely matter. Two: while the narcissist is self-centered in an empty way, the person in touch with the Divine finds the eternal Source within (or Buddha-nature, if you prefer). Three: The arrogant person may play to an audience for effect, and to gain a following; but the humble person may consider carefully the sensibilities of the hearer, looking to open the door to transformation.

Imo the distinction between arrogance and humility is often a subjective one, which cannot be determined *categorically* in an objective (object-oriented) way. BUT, it can be discerned by entering into a relationship or engagement with the other as a subject open to the possibility of genuine transformation.

So, trick question: how does one know when one has found an authentic teacher? Only by being an authentic student. ;-) When I'm with an authentic teacher, they touch my deepest core, bring me into contact with it, and with that I get perspective, freedom, joy and contentment. If you are this sort of a student, you can't be harmed by a charlatan or a fraud, and ultimately not led too far out of the way.

Even so, I find that there are certain common sense external traits that do tell you a lot about how humble someone is: right speech (the Buddha's term), their compassion, their contentment at what is, the way they can help you relax around them, their mental *wideness* and ability to integrate opposing perspectives and consider contradictory viewpoints without having an emotional reaction (all of which the online persona known as Gagdad Bob clearly seems to lack ;-) ).

"But this raises for me the vital epistemological question of how thorough a self-consistent philosophical system we can build and have it accurately represent the reality its intended to represent. It seems to me that Bob is striving for systemic consistency but has sacrificed truth in the process."

Right -- but what do we mean by consistency and integrity? Mental integrity? Or integrity of *being*? For me the epistemology of perceiving Truth involves unifying our own being -- our mental perceptions, our emotions, our differing subpersonalities, and so forth. How can we perceive Reality with integrity while all these different parts of us are profoundly at war with one another? It's impossible. There can be no consistency or integrity in our perceptions until we have cultivated integrity within our very *being*.

What Bob has done, in the Mother's terms, is built up a mental fortress. It may be consistent insofar as he's got mental doctrines that don't contradict each other -- but the same can be said for any closed mental philosophy, including fascism or Nazism. No, to me this is the opposite of what needs to be done. What needs to be done is to face the brute contradictions of existence, and look within for a way out. Wisdom unifies opposites in a way that transcends, for me, the reason or the intellect. Again I turn to Sri Aurobindo:

"When I speak, the reason says, “This will I say”; but God takes the word out of my mouth and the lips say something else at which reason trembles."

What he's talking about here is *paradox*. The paradoxes of existence cannot be reconciled by reason alone. One has to rely on higher faculties than reason because reason divides everything into dualities, which is why we often get Catch-22's and logical paradoxes. Insofar as Gagdad's philosophy is based on his misguided divided mental perceptions, coloured by his emotional biases and prejudices, it is as dualistic as anything else is. Wisdom is something else, it is a direct perception or experience of Reality as a whole. The mental fortress is a very dangerous thing according to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Once someone builds it up, confuses it with Reality, and then suppresses or stifles their soul within it, it is like a prison or a cage. And if you try to take down that mental fortress, you will get huge emotional reactions because the person is really convinced that the mental fortress = Reality.

And this is a real danger with the spiritual path -- confusing metaphor and Reality. I daresay we all do it all the time. I have to repeatedly remind myself that my mental and emotional perceptions are NOT Reality, that these are divided perceptions, and that one has to wait until higher, more unified and harmonious perceptions develop before one has a clearer picture of Reality.

Yes, Gagdad has said more than once that truth is paramount and that it therefore, does indeed "trump love." If I understand you explanation of Aurobindo on this issue, he said that they, along with power, are of equal importance. I think Aurobindo is more likely correct.

Well, then what can I say, Gagdad has to take Mysticism 101 again. ;-) Love is what keeps the soul alive -- everything else can fail, you might be powerless, you might be an illiterate person (as Sri Ramakrishna was), but love will keep the soul alive no matter what happens. What Aurobindo said was that the problem is that Love by itself only allows individual transcendence, while the rest of the world remains unchanged. He said if you want to change the *world*, you have to bring Knowledge and Power into the picture too, but not in the usual egoic way that human beings do. Knowledge has to bow down to Wisdom, and Power has to bow down to Love, and *then* we can hope for real change and harmony in the world.

You might enjoy Aurobindo's critique of Nietzsche:
http://www.asianreflection.com/superman.shtml

"Unity is the secret, a complex, understanding and embracing unity. When the full heart of Love is tranquillized by knowledge into a calm ecstasy and vibrates with strength, when the strong hands of Power labour for the world in a radiant fullness of joy and light, when the luminous brain of knowledge accepts and transforms the heart's obscure inspirations and lends itself to the workings of the high-seated Will, when all these gods are founded together on a soul of sacrifice that lives in unity with all the world and accepts all things to transmute them, then is the condition of man's integral self-transcendence. This and not a haughty, strong and brilliant egoistic self-culture enthroning itself upon an enslaved humanity is the divine way of supermanhood."

It's a real pity, but probably without even realizing it, my sense is that Gagdad is closer to Nietzsche's ideal than to Aurobindo's -- he certainly reminds me of the "haughty, strong and brilliant egoistic self-culture enthroning itself upon an enslaved humanity" that Sri Aurobindo is criticizing in this essay.

ned said...

Oh, by the way, I'm really enjoying our exchanges too. ;-)

Anonymous said...

So why don't you two pussies bring it over to Bob's place so he can eat your lunch over there as well as he is eating it here, without even being here.?

Nagarjuna said...

I've "taken it" to Bob's place many times, but he didn't like to be challenged, so, first, he began deleting my comments, then placing his blog in comment moderation, then e-mailing me and angrily telling me to stop, and then he contemplated resorting to other measures such as requiring blog membership in order to comment there. I finally told him not to bother, that I'd stop commenting, and so I have except on rare occasions when I have something to say that doesn't challenge him and his fellow Coons and cause disruption of the Gagdad lovefest.

But perhaps you'd be so kind as define "eat your lunch" and provide examples of when Bob has do this to me.

Anonymous said...

He is doing it to you right now as almost all of the recent comments at this blog are about him.

Anonymous said...

All in a put-downy sort of way. Isn't this what you say you dislike about Bob and criticize him for? Sounds as if your lunch is being eaten. Pretty obvious.
I would expect advanced beings such as yourself and Ned to be above this sort of behaviour.
So how about shutting up or debate Bob in front of his face? You certainly use enough of his content in your blog to give him that much respect.
It's what an evolved man would do.

Nagarjuna said...

Again, please define "eat your lunch."

By the way, I don't want to "debate" Bob or anyone else. I'd much rather dialogue with them. But some people don't appear to be interested in dialgoue. They want to pontificate or debate because they believe that they have the truth and that anyone who disagrees with them is ignorant, stupid, or just plain evil.

As for having any kind of interaction with Bob "in front of his face," he's made it very clear that he doesn't want to do that with me on his blog. But we've had numerous interactions here, including several quite recent ones. He, in one of his personas, usually ends up telling me how "lost" I am or how "upside down" my view of the world is. So much for dialogue or even debate.

Yes, I do quote and write about him a lot here, and I've explained why, to the best of my ability. You can explain it any way you wish.

todd said...

You and Ned sound like a couple scared ankle biters who can't hang with the big dogs so you've started your own mutual admiration society.

Anonymous said...

"They want to pontificate or debate because they believe that they have the truth and that anyone who disagrees with them is ignorant, stupid, or just plain evil."

Take a look at the last succession of posts and tell me that this isn't what you are indeed doing with Bob.

Anonymous said...

"To be honest, I've never banned a single person, although I have asked a couple of them to go away, mainly because they are just too stupid and/or annoying to understand what is going on here."
Gagdad Bob

Bob's talking about you again. :*0

Nagarjuna said...

Whom have either Ned or I accused of being ignorant, stupid, or just plain evil?

Anonymous said...

Do you think it's possible that you may be too stupid to understand what Bob is speaking of? You seem to be in selective agreement with him, is it possible that he is correct in all that he speaks?

Nagarjuna said...

Could Bob be correct about everything he says? Maybe, but I doubt it. I doubt that ANYBODY is correct in EVERYTHING he says.

Could I be "too stupid" to understand everything he says? Yes, I guess so. I certainly don't understand everything he says. Is that because I'm too "stupid," or is it possibly because some of what he says is nonsense?

What has he said that you think is true that I've criticized or questioned, and let's take another look at it and see just how sensible or true it is.

Anonymous said...

How about this?

"To be honest, I've never banned a single person, although I have asked a couple of them to go away, mainly because they are just too stupid and/or annoying to understand what is going on here."

Nagarjuna said...

What did I say on his blog that indicated that I was "just too stupid and/or annoying to understand" what was "going on" there?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that whatever it is was pointed out to you at the time.

Anonymous said...

Apparently you weren't banned, just asked to leave because you weren't able to comprehend what was being discussed there.

Todd said...

He probably tired of explaining things to you that you weren't capable of grasping like your wife does when you ask Why? Why? Why?

Nagarjuna said...

When did I ever say that he "banned" me? But he did ask me to go away, he began deleting my comments, he placed his blog in comment moderation, and he finally began talking about requiring membership to post there or even to read his blog. That sounds tantamount to banning, does it not?

As for occasions when I've taken issue with Bob about something and you think it's just because I've been too "stupid and/or annoying" to understand him, it looks like you don't know what you're talking about, or you'd be able to bring up examples and discuss them with me.

So, unless and until you have something more substantive to say, I guess I'm wasting my time by doing anything except ignore you.

Anonymous said...

Does Bob ignore you?
Does that make you mad?
You must have been a real pain in the ass over there as he seems to welcome all comers.
Who are you editing out with your comment moderation? Are you posting everything that is being submitted or just what selectively fits you agenda. Remember, Naked Reflections.
Perhaps you could give me a timeline as to when you were posting over at Bobs site and I could look through the archive and see for myself. It hasn't been in the recent past or even as near as a year and a half as far as I can tell. He seems to have scared you away long ago. Too long to be as obsessed with him as you are now.

Anonymous said...

I did see your comment on the Tony Snow post. That can't possibly be what you are referring to can it?

todd said...

Anon,

I, for one have been edited out with a comment I made which compared this guys making his wife crazy by, after having been given an adequate answer, always asking why like a child, and his probable doing the same thing on Bob's blog and exasperating him also.
But I don't expect to see this or the other comment posted anytime soon.

Nagarjuna said...

"Todd," I haven't intentionally "edited out" any of your comments. While I don't believe that you've said anything much more substantive than, in effect, "Bob's right and you're wrong," I've tried to post everything you've written and let it speak for itself.

You say that I was given "adequate" answers but kept asking "WHY?" anyway. Would you care to cite an example of this? WHERE was I given an "adequate answer" but kept foolishly asking why? I don't expect you to respond with any more substance to this question than you have to my other ones, but you're welcome to surprise me.

todd said...

If you haven't intentionally edited out any comment I've made, how about posting the original comment I submitted.
Since apparently you haven't been posting lately on Bob's blog, and as Anon suggested, are unwilling to give a timeline of the posts where you actually were commenting on Bob's comments, I guess all we can do is speculate on evidence you've given (ex. your wifes' reaction to your inability to understand)

Nagarjuna said...

Just as I expected. No substantive reply to my question. So, I'll pose the question again. WHERE have I been given an "adequate answer" but have kept foolishly asking why? And another question, WHAT has Gagdad said that I've wrongly questioned or criticized, and HOW was I wrong to do it?

I'm giving you wonderful chances to expose my ignorance, stupidity, or whatever it is that you think keeps me from acknowledging the truth of Gagdad's words. But you keep throwing them away. Will you rise to the occasion THIS time? If not, don't bother commenting, because it won't be posted. Enough of your nonsense. Where's the BEEF? :-)

Anonymous said...

I'll make this simple.
Most people don't have time to sort through over two years worth of posts on One Cosmos. What I am asking of you is a timeline when you were actually posting on his blog so that people can see for themselves what went on.
Why is that such a tough thing for you to do?

Nagarjuna said...

Even though you didn't deliver "the beef" in your latest comment, I magnanimously published it anyway. But I won't publish any more of your comments until they answer the questions I posed previously, and that's a promise.

I posted many comments on Bob's blog more than a year ago. I don't recall the exact dates. And it's really not important. If you want to spend your time combing through the comments of his posts in an effort to find my comments, be my guest and his. But I wouldn't be surprised if he's methodically deleted most of them. He certainly deleted a lot of them back then. In any case, I have better things to do with my time than look for my old comments on his blog.

As for the questions I put to you, you don't need to find the aforementioned comments to answer my questions. Pick out things or even just one thing I've said about or to Gagdad RECENTLY HERE ON MY BLOG and tell me what I've said that's wrong and WHY it's wrong. Gagdad and I have had several fairly recent exchanges here. For instance, check for comments by baba rum raisin and freiedrich. They are two of Gagdad's alternate personas.

Now remember, "Tod," that you've been a bad boy here of late, and ole Nagarjuna has served you notice that no more of your comments will be posted unless and until you deliver the beef. So, get your ass to work, little boy, or Nagarjuna is going to have to turn you over his knee and give you a spankin'.