Skillful Email Self-Expression
Dec 12, 1996 01:29 PM
As the more-experienced participants in theos-l and other email
discussion groups discover, there's an art to self-expression in
this new media.
At first, one comes on strong, writing as one thinks, holding
nothing back, boldly denouncing what one disagrees with and
eagerly attacking people and positions that conflict with one's
own world view.
I could picture statements like:
> What! You disagree with Blavatsky! You heathen non-theosophist!
> Men and women aren't the same! Crawl into a hole and die, you
> dirt-bag scum excuse for a human being.
> You think Guru Bubblegum is not the direct agent of the Masters
> and supercedes what HPB and other earlier writers said? You're
> just another of the blind, non-initiated masses, crawling in the
> muck of western materialism!
> The leaders of all the theosophical groups are corrupt,
> power-hungry, ignorant bastards that aren't insightful enough to
> accept and print my brilliant books!
> You disagree with me because you're a hateful bigot that cannot
> accept the truth when it stares you in the face! You're a mere
> fat-ist (hater of fat people)!
There are certain things we can learn from our early mistakes in
1. Making a bold statement, call for action, or denunciation of
something we don't like does not rally support behind us, nor
does it lead people to change their ways and do things our
way. It simply hardens positions and makes enemies for us.
For example, if we support vegetarianism and find it both
harmful and unhealthy to eat meat, we don't have to denounce
people that still choose to eat meat, telling the world that
they are wrong, selfish, greedy, evil, etc.
2. We cannot assume to speak for other people as to their motives
nor as to what they are trying to say. If we hear something
we think sounds odd or wrong, we should ask the person to
clarify their meaning and intent. As a general rule, we should
accept their clarification, and not call them liars and insist
our interpretation of their statements is more true than their
For example, if someone uses the word "brotherhood" and we have
come to consider that word as meaning "a fraternity of men" and
become quickly angered, we need to ask if that is what they
meant by the word, and why they were using it. One person may
have gleefully picked the word to enrage us, like waving a red
flag in front of a bull; another person may simply use the term
in its older meaning and with no ill intent. We cannot presume
sexism and should not indulge in projection.
3. We learn that we cannot say everything skillfully, in a single
posting, with no room for improvement. We find that words we
thought were completely lucid leave others saying "huh?" We
make multiple attempts at expressing our ideas, taking the
feedback from others, and our writing techniques improve. We
don't assume others are stupid when they fail to understand and
agree with what we first write.
From this we learn to apply the same tolerance to others that
we needed during our learning process. We don't insist that
the views of others are fixed in concrete with their first
posting on a subject, but realize that they may need several
postings to explain what they mean.
An example of this problem would be where someone says "the
theosophical idea of root races is racist". Then with further
discussion, the person comes to see or express that "the
theosophical idea of root races is not racist, but is subject
to misinterpretation and misrepresentation in support of racist
Another example would be if someone makes a blanket statement
that "all psychic abilities are harmful," but later comes to
refine it to include "except if they are naturally arising,
not forced, and outside of any spiritual practice that calls
for their non-cultivation."
4. We learn to appreciate that we have an audience of people.
We're not driving a car, alone on the freeway, talking to
ourselves about how horrid the other drivers are. We're not
writing in a journal. We're communicating with people.
We need to temper what we say and how we say it with them in
mind. We need to picture that there are people before us
while we're writing, people of other views, and respect their
self-dignity and feelings.
An example of not doing this would be when we take a specific
political stand, knowing full well that all areas of the
political spectrum are represented in our readership, and
curse, denounce, and vilify people of some persuasion that
disagrees with our own.
Say we were to pick on a fundamentalist Christian approach,
the politically correct movement, or the anti-government
survivalist crowd. We'd step on some toes, making people mad,
even if there were some element of truth in what we'd say.
They'd be quick to respond to us that their central ideas are
sacroscant, holy truths, and we are stupid, if not wilfully
evil for profaning them. And we'd have a fight on our hands.
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