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Fortresses and Keeps…at Wheat and Tares

June 20, 2012

This morning, my latest article of many in which I gaze at my internet-community-attending escapades went up at Wheat and Tares: Fortresses and Keeps – What are we Mormons building online?

Since I already wrote most of what I wanted to write on the topic over at Wheat and Tares (at over 2000 words, the article is well past my “comfortable blog post length,” and that post has most of my thoughts on the subject at hand.) Instead, I want to talk a bit about some thoughts that I had only touched upon in the Wheat and Tares article. Here’s the part from the W&T article I would like to build upon:

…As I’ve thought about the reasons that I blog, I realized that I blog to be challenged. I understand I am not perfect here — I recognize fully that there are probably countless beliefs I hold that I have not thought about deeply, that I have not critically assessed. Furthermore, since I’m hardheaded, I understand that someone could tell me a thousand times where they think I’m being uncritical, and I probably won’t be able to see what they are talking about.

Yet…what I’ve found is that occasionally, someone can say things in just the right way to make me look at things differently. Even if I don’t change my opinion, I’ll know that there are different opinions and things aren’t so simple. I find that challenge can come from all across the spectrum — sometimes people whom I am close to theologically don’t really challenge me, and sometimes those who believe very differently than me are most fascinating because of that difference.

In this sense, I feel like I break down safe zones, rather than create them. I’m not building a fortress or a keep. This is the open field, the city marketplace. Even though I continue to make a nuisance of myself, even though I continue to challenge, play devil’s advocate, critique, question, and re-question, I feel like the point of a community is not necessarily agreeing, but respecting my fellow community members enough that even when we disagree, we will commit to consider one another’s thoughts. Similarly, in the marketplace, we may not buy each others’ wares, but what’s important is that this space provides access for people to share those wares, and that we resist monopolization. (OK, let’s not derail to economics…)

What originally got me thinking about that was a comment from Taryn Fox over at Main Street Plaza:

I’m sorry for blowing up at you on your blog earlier. I don’t know why you let jerks like Seth spew their crap there, but I get that you’re a lot closer to John Dehlin than I am, both in that you’re apparently trying to reach out and that you’re able to do so.

I’m personally a lot closer to the “abuse survivor” end of the spectrum, and I’m a theistic one at that, so I’ve mostly had to find support outside of the online exmormon community. It’s not really a safe space for someone who needs to come to terms with their spirituality post-mormonism — pretty much noplace in it is. I’m beginning to think the ones who leave for reasons like mine usually end up finding a different community of support.

The comparison to John Dehlin was interesting to me.

As I wrote back to Taryn,

I would agree with your earlier comment that John Dehlin respects both sets of filters — which means that people on both sides can get shut out if they aren’t careful. I think that’s one way to preserve a level of safety [sic…that should be “preserve a filter”] on both ends and thus have a grounds for communication in the middle.

That hasn’t been my style, however…if only because I do have the experience of being banned from sites and I don’t like it. So, rather than respecting both sets of filters, I see myself as subverting both sets of filters. If I am able to reach out to both sides, it’s not because I have a safe zone for one side or the other, but because I will rampantly challenge any sense of, I dunno, unearned certainty that I see from any side.

I know that it’s so cliché to say that you’re open-minded. And in many cases, people are really deluded when they assert this. I mean, that’s just psychology…

So I understand that I have to be very careful here of what I say I’m trying to do…I have to be careful that I’m not simply ignoring my biases.

…so here goes nothing:

I feel like so much of my blogging is for the purposes of seeking challenge from different sides. That doesn’t mean I accept challenge easily. That doesn’t mean I understand where people are coming from all the time. In fact, sometimes I really just don’t get what people are saying. We go back and forth, and it only seems to annoy me, the other person, or both (or at least, that’s what I perceive). Sometimes, it’s a process of kicking and screaming. Sometimes, it entails pissing people off.

…but, I dunno…even if at the end of the day, I’m not convinced by the other person, I usually walk away with the understanding that a different position exists. I take it into consideration in the future…I consider whether I need to personally come up with a way to discuss or account for that experience…it fits into my repository of “nuance” (ugh, that word.)

Hearing from a variety of people is really essential to me, because depending on who the person is or how someone phrases something, with one way it might click, and another way it might not. I guess I’ll relate a story that’s immediately relevant to this.

So…in the discussion I linked earlier at Main Street Plaza, chanson and I were going back and forth on something. I wasn’t understanding her, and I didn’t think she was understanding me, and it was annoying me. (Maybe it was annoying her too?)

But Taryn’s first comment to the discussion agreed with chanson. All of a sudden, chanson’s perspective in that instance became “real” to me. I had so much I agreed with Taryn throughout the comment that I automatically thought to myself, “So, maybe there’s something to what chanson has said on this other issue…”

…it seems to me that I am not as likely to have experiences like that if I don’t put myself in those situations, or create an environment here where these sorts of situations can happen.

I’m just really fortunate that people haven’t gotten to the point where they find me so insufferable or hardheaded that they quit the conversation or deem me a “lost cause.”

In any event…I still feel there’s a lot of ego issues holding me back. A lot of pride. A need to “win” arguments or to “get the last word in.” My Weaknesses post and my Arguing To Win post are just as true now as they were when I wrote them. I understand these are flaws to be moved past from…I just need to figure a way to learn how…but that’s another post for another time…

  1. jewelfox permalink

    I’m glad that your needs are being met by the discussion at Main Street Plaza.

  2. I really don’t know what to say to that, jewelfox, since if I’m aware that your needs are usually not met by discussion at MSP, and I’m not doing much to help that situation.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Main Street Plaza » Sunday in Outer Blogness: Exciting Discussions Edition!!
  2. Main Street Plaza » Mormon Intra-faith Dialogue Under Controlled Circumstances

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