Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Reasonable Person

To discover knowledge, construct wisdom and learn to praise the right requires mental modesty.

Dana Bate
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"Be alert. The world needs more lerts" as the saying goes. If you were driving down a back road in the country after the Spring rain, you turned off the road and got stuck above your hub caps in the mud, what would you do? Would you go and get help to free your car from being stuck? Or would you borrow some tools and equipment, cut down trees, build a house, clear some land, plant crops and sell tomatoes out of the back of your mud stuck car?

The contest these day seems to be who can build a better house and who can grow better tomatoes. In other words, who can better articulate the same old mud stuck ideas. I think it was John Cage who said that he didn't understand why people were frightened of new ideas, that he was frightened of the old ones.

I emerged from high school with a bunch of flimsy theories about the world, given to me by teachers who never offered any alternatives. Once out on my own the compassionate ones pointed out my ignorance and the uncompassionate ones just tried to prove that I was stupid. It took me a long time to stop trying to defend positions and theories that were not reasoned out. My emotions got in the way. I couldn't bear being wrong. But about midway through my first half century I began to realize that "I don't know" is really a legitimate answer to any question if it's the right one, and it doesn't mean I'm stupid.

I grew up with people who steadfastly refused to give up old ways of thinking or even to consider a new or different idea. So I suppose my dawning mental freedom was my form of rebellion, in a way.

In my career I found people who had developed a secure system of working and never deviated from it. But sometimes I would get a role that would defy being worked out with my system and I would have to rethink how I worked. I finally got to the point where I used to say "I reinvent the art of acting with every role I get."

Now we are at the point in the world, on all of its continents, where the non thinkers, the articulators of old, rusty worn out ideas are predominate and any traveler who passes by with refreshed ideas about governance, spirituality, art and education, who doesn't get stuck in the mud, is having the mud thrown at him. Because, as I was, the wrong can't bear being wrong.

Defensive emotionalism is the rule, the system, instead of the open mind of reason. A reasonable person is one who holds opinions based on clear headed thinking but is always prepared to change his mind. A reasonable person is one who realizes that he doesn't know all there is to know about any single important issue. A reasonable person is one who sincerely listens to another reasonable person's opinions even if they are different. A reasonable person is compassionate towards ignorance and is not provoked by stupidity. A reasonable person knows the mud is there, avoids it and doesn't sling it back. A reasonable person is mentally modest.

DB - The Vagabond
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SUMMER QUESTION
(This is not a contest.)

Who are the 2 (two) most important people alive today? Why?

Only 6 responses so far.

dbdacoba@aol.com

Thank you.
DB
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3 comments:

Liz said...

Until mankind admits how ignorant he is we will never even start learning let alone attempt to reach the heights of wisdom.

Arlene (AJ) said...

Mankind will never admit to not knowing everything, wouldn't want anyone to think he wasn't the smartest most knowledgeable human being on our planet. Just being strong enough to stay "I don't know" once in their life would open the pathway to more converstions with people, suggestions and might help to lead us all in a better direction. Oh well, guess we can dream, but better not hold our breathe waiting for this to happen.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Mental Modesty is a great phrase, I hope we can find a way to make it come to fruition.