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Skillful Email Self-Expression

Dec 12, 1996 01:29 PM
by uscap9m9

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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