This is the fourth in a five-part series on why I blog.
Four. Bloggers can be way too self-righteous and serious about what they do. Certainly anyone reading the last three posts in this series could get the impression that I have donned my shining armour, have received the blessing of the Lord and Lady of the kingdom, and am getting ready to set forth on a dragon-slaying adventure. I suppose I probably deserve that. So now let’s turn to the dark underbelly, the unconscious world of shadow motivations: I blog, therefore I lie.
I wish it weren’t so, but it really is. There is nothing I can write that doesn’t contain the seeds of deception and error within. In fact, there may be something about the integral and higher levels of consciousness that is particularly keen at cloak and dagger games (I like to think that it’s greater awareness of the limits of language and the duplicity that exists all around us, rather than any particular malevolence that springs to life among the integrally inclined.) I don’t mean to say that I intentionally deceive so much as that I often make conscious decisions to withhold beliefs and judgments that aren’t particularly useful in a given context.
For example, I’ve learned over the past two years of blogging that it is rarely worth my time to engage in dialogue with conservative religionists on homosexuality or other highly emotional subjects. I can point these folks to archives of my writings, but I simply have no interest in ongoing communications with them for more reasons than I care to divulge except in these brief remarks. Nor do I have a particular interest in being polite or friendly with these folks, except for a desire to avoid the bad karma of causing suffering in another sentient being. So you see, when I do engage in back-and-forth with conservative religionists, I do so for no other motivation than self-expression and enjoyment. (An exception is when I read a genuinely interesting argument that I’ve never heard before, then I may respond with seriousness.) Usually my responses appear to others as as gleeful mockery, mischievous antagonism, or impudent rudeness. Terry Mattingly once called me the “heckler” of the GetReligion blog. Fine. I have no problem with being a heckler. I have no desire to persuade or engage in debate of any sort with most of these traditionalists (as I said previously, if they want argument, they can read my writings and respond with an essay).
In this example, my “lie” is that I may communicate unintentionally that I actually have more respect for a person’s religious beliefs than I really do. I may have great respect for a person’s intellect, eloquence, and achievements in life, but have zero respect for her particular religious convictions about homosexuality. In fact, I might judge that she’s an idiot or a bigot, though I would never say so publicly unless it was plain obvious. Often, the most honest response I could muster would be, “Go away and come back in ten years when you’ve evolved to the point where we can actually have meaningful discourse.” But that’s considered a mean thing to say in our culture, so instead of speaking the truth I tend to let Mr. Nice Guy say something more ambiguously dismissive, something like, “Go away please.”
(Too often people speak about the need to respect religion. I think that’s ridiculous. Religion is not a good thing in itself, it is a bearer of traditions that range from respectable to horrible. Respect people. Tolerate religion. Respect religion only if it deserves respect. Many of the religionists–including some prominent religion bloggers who have scads of readers–have a religiosity that I don’t respect, and don’t pretend to.)
Here’s another example. Ken Wilber has stated that the central presupposition of his philosophy is that “Everyone is right.” That’s a lie. He usually follows immediately by saying that “To be precise, everyone is partially right.” Ah, that seems to be closer to the truth (but it’s not really). Then he proceeds to say something like, “Now here’s how everyone else is limited but true.” Which then enters the ears of a listener as a particular vibration that actually sounds like, “Now here’s how everyone but me is wrong.”
I like this example of Wilber’s writing not because I think it’s true, but because it’s darn clever. As I see it, Wilber is making a statement that appears to be a fact of some sort (“Everyone is right,”) but he is actually doing something quite different. He is introducing a thought like a Zen koan, a paradox like the lying Cretan, an invitation to wonder. He is stating something as some sort of fact that couldn’t possibly be true, unless Truth itself is different than you have conceived.
That’s why I read “Everyone is right” not as a statement of fact, but as an injunction that goes like this: “Consider the possibility that everyone in the world is right. What sort of world would have to exist in order to allow for this possibility?” (And if you don’t know the answer to that question, consider reading Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything or another book to hear a very interesting story.)
“Everyone is right,” could very well be a mantra for this blog in 2006. Not because of its truth, but because it’s a useful lie. If I engage other bloggers in challenging argument, I do not need to explain to them how terribly they are wrong. I can critique in a new way, not the old fashion of critique that displays the usual sort of intellectual arrogance of setting one’s self on a pedestal and explaining how everyone else isn’t reasoning well enough, is committing atrocious logical fallacies, and so forth. (Well, that sort of diatribe has its place in certain contexts. I think it’s often a good way of responding to rationalists by speaking their own tongue.)
What’s the alternative to the old sort of blogging-as-critique that shoves down everyone’s throat how wrong they are? Well, we can follow Wilber’s injunction and see where it leads us. We can assume the truth of someone’s vision of reality, and then explicate (as best we can) just what they’re missing in their picture of the world, where they are more blind than they need be, where they are partial in their apprehension of truth, where they are less comprehensive than they could be, and how they could begin to a few steps down the path of greater integration from whatever point they’re at. And if it takes a lie–basically an antithesis in a dialectic–to do the trick, so be it.