Sep 17, 2006

Let's go - a thousand million thoughts, not a second of time to make sense of any of it. But life is good, neither sun nor rain faze me, autumn in NY is coming, and perhaps I'll be able to travel someday to see more of the world that I don't know enough of.


I spoke with a distant cousin who has come to the States to study on the phone today for the second time, first since he landed in Mobile, AL. I've never met him face-to-face, and yet I still feel some sense of older brotherly protection that I should confer to him, especially in lieu of his own family, half a world away in Bombay. He's a good kid, studying for a graduate degree at age 22. I think he was surprised that I hadn't been "Americanized" in whatever that means to the average middle class Indian. Sometimes I think that Bollywood conspires to stereotype me more than the average redneck.

It's an old story, but the assumptions that folks make about second and third generation folks are still amazing. And I guess I have to put up the mirror and think about the assumptions I make as well. This particular conversation seemed to suggest that he thought I wouldn't "get" family, or that I'd be rude or uninterested in him. But I guess I was raised to think about family expansively, even though I still have many "yo you're crowding me" moments. There's something stable and dependable about kinship. Knowing that regardless, we're bonded by blood in a way that transcends the mutable and mercurial nature of most friendships. I don't pass along my deepest secrets to my extended family members, but we have each others' back. And they forgive me when I get too carried away in my desire to neutralize the conservatism that I feel is creeping up all around us.


But I guess that's another point that I've been thinking about. When do you make your point strongly, at risk of breaking off a conversation entirely, and when do you attempt moderation? I have a problem with the latter, especially when things get heated. I like to go for the jungular, or at least duel enough to get to the truth. But not many people are in that frame of mind, and taking up a position seems to broadcast closemindedness or immovability. But I want to have conversations that challenge me and others to question our assumptions and to go beyond regurgitating what we've been told or sold.

Truth is, there's too much ego involved in that initial challenge. If it's a real discussion and dialogue, it will come. But pushing for it might mean that I'm overconfident that my position/point of view is the right one. Not a good place at all - conquering one's ego is the only way to truly be open to learning from others even if we disagree wholeheartedly. So strength of conviction, as well as some level of thought about an issue that led to that point of view, gets in the way, particularly when it seems like the other person hasn't thought much at all about the issue in question.

And then, it appears like you have no capacity to tolerate different opinions, a dissuasive element that turns people off, far more than showcasing knowledge turns them on to your ideas. So how to share without falling into the paternalistic/condescension trap of trying to "educate" someone? How do we learn together?

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