March 31, 2006

Once again I have been reminded, in that non-verbal way that communicates much more clearly than words, that, to those in a position of societal authority, I come across as irritating and more than a little arrogant.

I suspect, now, that it is not inherent within what I say: for people find their own balance, either to chosen podium or chosen audience, and largely tune out the rest. I question things that Must Not Be Questioned, yes; I play devil's advocate to whichever facet seems not to have had a voice; I don't play politics, social or otherwise; I don't even know that I know how to make conventional Small Talk; but (bluntly) I don't say things that I don't feel are not worth saying ... and I don't accept anything as proof in and of itself.

Let alone as proof in and of the person speaking it.

Which takes the question of my arrogance into my general attitude: not subject, but who I am (who is saying these things); and to whom I am saying them. A curious thing, here: that a person can speak for an evening and a morning on questions of social justice and idea and grassroots leadership, spend much generous time speaking with various members of their audience ... and yet, at the crunch, find themself irritated and even somewhat resentful that another might not take the words given from On High as unquestioned Truth (or, worse yet, as partial foundations long since firmed, upon which other, more tentative buildings have already been attempted).

I find myself -- really, have all my life found myself -- on the periphery of groups: and such gatherings and speakings and conferences are no exception. I don't have a network. I don't network, not in the half self-marketing, half-obsequious manner it seems to be understood of late. I don't acknowledge status hierarchies, but take each person as an individual, here and now, in front of me. I have no fear of speaking up, even if what I say is about to contradict everyone who has spoken before me. I have called a prince "sir", but then I call every man whom I address and who I do not know, "sir".

I am outsider, in a way no one is really comfortable with anymore.

(Every time I come up with something solid in public, I am asked what I teach. I have yet to tell anyone that I don't even have the doctorate and don't seek one: find that degree of specialised focus far too limiting ... and yet -- may have mentioned this before -- it seems that, to have a valid Thought, one is expected to be affiliated in some definable fashion with a university. But I seek the interaction and the resources and the insights, not the union card of narrowed specialisation.)

And thus I seem, often, to embody that Other which so often evokes a vague uneasiness, most frequently manifested in a desire to be elsewhere. In fact I seem, in my essence and my non-fear of not being one of Us, sometimes to define a vague threat.

Yet why should this be? if the substance of a person is indeed of inherent value, independent utterly of social class and of photogenics and of personal self-marketing ability?

Comments:
I would like to preface what I’m about to say with the fact that I personally love your manner of speech, your writing, and your elegance of thought.

I just cant help but wonder if you come off as self-righteous in your tone of voice, or if such a sentiment is reflected on your countenance. You may be extinguishing or playing off the passion of others as "Small Talk."

In terms of your writing, your sentences are often long and you seem afraid of using the period. But that's because you're smart. A sentence is a thought; longer sentences are needed to express more complex thoughts.

Since you feel socially marginalized, and this bothers you, you have to ask yourself some questions... Do I want to question people to the point of pestilence? do I want to unapologetically push people into creating a rational edifice for all their beliefs. Or do you want to be true to your passion, to be a contemporary Socrates (and remember what happened to him), to reject the easy route at all costs, even if it means having little to no social life and feeling disconnected all the time.

If you choose the latter, bear in mind you will have been a warrior, and fought for the most spectacular of all causes--Wisdom-- and stayed true to your passion. But you run the risk of becoming an increasing alienating person, a person who may have all the wisdom in the world, but a person who at the end of the day, will have pursued in vain as you have no way of communicating and connectioning to others as you lost your ability to connect, in which case it will all be worthless.
 
Could I have missed the nugget of "wisdom" in the original post here, Philip? It's one thing to go around Athens talking about how wise you are and how nobody else gets it; but it's much more difficult to try to formulate comprehensible truth-statements that don't revolve around individual perspective: "I, I, I..."
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
"Truth is subjectivity."
 
Hmm. I speak for myself as much as I do, because I don't know what another thinks. For that, like everyone else, I can only go by their words and their deeds; and by extrapolated guessing from what I have observed of my own patterns. Does that make me subjective, or objective?

I don't claim wisdom. (The blog subtitle should tell you that much!) The concept of being a contemporary Socrates terrifies me -- not least because I think the Platonic/Aristotlean polemic has not been good for us. There are times when I think I might have something worth saying (or else I would not speak up). There are more times when I wonder why I am saying it at all, when the same thing has been said so many times before.

Maybe there was an idea worth hearing, in that event the post references. Certainly those who claimed to wish to hear such things -- who indeed claimed that such ideas, such leadership, were absolutely essential to our society -- will never know it ... of their own initiative, and their own actions. What makes you think the underlying cause must be mine? Indeed, what makes you think this lifelong outsider has anything personally to gain from membership in a select country club? If the words I heard from these people hold any truth, they themselves will not shy from what is worthwhile, be it mine or another's: but if they themselves choose not to hear, how is that my problem? And if I choose instead to focus my speech in future to a venue where I can maybe connect with far more people than the protected demesnes of the ivory tower or the academic journal or the patronage position: who, then, is really being marginalised?

To conclude this comment, I state only two things:

* Their inconsistency (words v. deed), not mine.
* Their loss (if loss there be), not mine.
 
a) "It's one thing to go around Athens talking about how wise you are and how nobody else gets it"

b) "I don't claim wisdom. (The blog subtitle should tell you that much!) The concept of being a contemporary Socrates terrifies me "

In reference to a and b, I drew the parallel between
tenebris and Socrates because of their questioning and controversial nature:

"I question things that Must Not Be Questioned, yes; I play devil's advocate to whichever facet seems not to have had a voice..."

and:

"The concept of being a contemporary Socrates terrifies me -- not least because I think the Platonic/Aristotlean **polemic** has not been good for us."

That said, heaven forfend I was accusing tenebris of being one who : "... go[es] around Athens talking about how wise you are and how nobody else gets it" or better said-- arrogant.

However, Tenebris did claim that, "I come across as irritating and more than a little arrogant."
The ancient Greeks are not exactly known for their humility, and it was quite fashionable to openly display your intellectual superiority much in the way that a peacock flaunts its tail feathers. There has been a bit of a revolution in our time, and "intellectuals" nowadays have to be a lot more subtle or sneaky about it so as not to be perceived as arrogant. IM IN NO WAY IMPLYING THAT TENEBRIS IS DOING THIS, but I am suggesting the possibility that in a legitimate pursuit of truth, her methods might resemble those who are in fact merely pretentious. That is only something for her to think about.

and as for:

"* Their loss (if loss there be), not mine."

If everything that you believe is honest and sincere, and you have been sensitive to those around you then you have all my support (whatever that means to you)-- so with that, good luck and go for it!
 
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