Saturday, June 29, 2013

Killing The Message, Not The Messenger

I'm sorry.

It's been brought to my attention that my recent posts, "Percepts - Concepts - Precepts," parts one and two, may have offended some people. I've been told that the posts came off as arrogant, insensitive, and "jerky." 

I'm grateful to know this. It's important to me to be aware of how my behaviors in the world effect others. I have absolutely no intention of hurting anyone's feelings, putting anyone in their place, denigrating or dismissing anyone. None of this is ad hominemIf your name was mentioned in my previous posts and you felt attacked, I am sorry. I consider works and ideas independent of their creators and communicators. I don't mean to kill the messenger, even if sometimes I think it is necessary to kill the message. 

My purpose in writing is to think. My intention is to work through ideas, works, writing, reading, and to come to deeper understandings of what they do and mean. In the process of this writing-thinking, I apply certain criteria as tests of the works under consideration. By the same token, the works test my criteria. The goal of the process is to change something: often my criteria, always my thinking, occasionally the works under consideration. The goal is to critique ideas, works, values, and conventions, not individuals. 

Contrary to what our teachers may have told us, it's not that there are no wrong answers. It's closer to the case to say that there are no right answers. Everything is up for negotiation. That negotiation happens in the conversation that is history: the history of ideas, of art, of music, social history, personal history. I don't consider my positions and opinions privileged. Instead, I think it's valuable to "think out loud;" to share, as honestly as possible, the process of working with and through ideas, texts, and works of art. I welcome clarifications of positions and couter-proposals. Please feel free to comment here or contact me elsewhere. 

Ideas and texts and works of art create and disseminate values. Often, this happens without regard for, or in spite of, the author's conscious intentions. Sometimes, the impact of a text may, in fact, communicate an ethic that is contrary to what its author believes and how she or he lives. Many of the works I have critiqued may fall into this category. And I realize that my criticisms, too, may convey an attitude that works against my intentions. Nevertheless, I believe that the debate is crucial. It's the only way that the works, the texts, the ideas can get better. Ultimately, it's the only way we can get better (i.e., smarter and more compassionate). We all need to be willing to put our ideas to the test that is the reception and critique of others. We all need to be willing to admit when we're wrong, to revise our positions, and, when appropriate, to say we're sorry. 

So, I'll finish this where I started, with a genuine apology to anyone who took offense at the previous posts. I'm sorry. 

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