Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Saturday, November 27, 2010

C: Do You Like to be Challenged?

overthink I just finished a book recommended to me by my son called Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.  Son gave it to me for two reasons: 1) He liked it; and 2) He knows I like the challenge of examining my own position on things and examining my beliefs. 

I am just wondering:  Am I unusual in this preference?  Or are most of you out there like this?

I ask because I have friends who distinctly do not like—even avoid—having their cherished beliefs challenged.  I actually relish it.  And I think it sometimes makes me look like a troublemaker.

You need to know this about me:

Just because I voice a proposition does not necessarily mean I subscribe to it.  If you ask me, I’ll tell you whether I am mulling over something that I’m just exploring or if I’m laying something on the table that I believe is a truth (getting rarer all the time, I’ll say, having learned in my old age that there are far fewer absolutes than I once thought).

I just forget to distinguish that sometimes.  Combine that with my love of discussion, and I think I come across as a heretic or a loony bin candidate when folks don’t know this about me.  When their voices start to rise in answer to me and their eyebrows knit together in consternation (and, sometimes, anger), I  realize that I have failed to put out a disclaimer and I am quick to explain that I’m just wondering…

Sometimes that doesn’t work.  Sometimes folks find the simple act of questioning offensive.  And that is something that escapes me altogether.  Is it fear?  If one’s beliefs don’t hold up to examination, then what does that mean?  For me, it’s not a good sign.  Doesn’t “truth” hold up to investigation?  If it doesn’t, don’t you want to know?

I go to a fairly flexible (don’t necessarily read “liberal” intoCain this) church.  And still there I get into trouble.  I’ll never forget the Sunday School class where the person leading the discussion of Cain and Able referred to these as “Adam’s and Eve’s first children.”  Of course, my hand shot up. 

How do you know they were the first children?” I asked, sincerely  examining the passages about them.  “It doesn’t say that here—am I missing it?  For all we know from this passage, Adam and Eve had 54 children before Cain and Abel…” 

Am I nitpicking?  Probably.  It wasn’t rabblerousing, I promise.  I don’t really care if Cain and Abel were the first, I just did not think we know that for sure and I was curious.  It was an honest “have-I-missed-something-here?” question.  But the effect was somewhat the same as if I had meant to stir up trouble.

Some in the class had “always” been taught that Cain and Abel were the first and, therefore, they were discombobulated at the thought that their “always” teaching might be askew.

seek truth Me?  I just want to be intellectually honest.  Sorry, folks, I just don’t see in the text that Cain and Abel were the first…in hot water again.

To me, the class members’ reaction to challenge of this detail was far and away more interesting than whether Cain and Abel were the first sons…

I love examination of ideas—yours and mine.  I love it when someone disagrees with me, intelligently, and is willing to talk about it.  I have learned so much this way.

And when someone shows me something that changes my mind, I have an inward-gasp-“Aha!” kind of reaction that is really akin to wonder.

So, being the kind of mental gymnast that I am, I thoroughly enjoyed Ishmael.  It dovetails nicely with the Cain and Abel story I just told on myself as it considers the story of the Garden of Eden and the trouble these two sons of Adam and Eve got into, right off the bat in the story of our beginning as we are given it.

Ishmael will make you consider that story in new light.  It will make you think of our society and some of our cherished beliefs about what is “good” and what is “evil” and who is wise enough to know the difference. 

Most of all, it will make you think about whether you ought toishmael be doing something different.  Really, however folks land on the specific topic of Quinn’s books, I long for as many people as possible to read this book and  consider the questions it raises.  They are important questions that need to be considered by all responsible members of our society. 

I’m not sure where I stand on all of what Quinn has to say in this book, but I surely am thinking a lot about it, and I will be moving on to the next of his books, The Story of B.  I am so looking forward to it.

So, if your brain and your beliefs need a little post-Thanksgiving-laziness walkabout just for the mental exercise, consider Ishmael and let me know what you think.  C


Frosty Duncan said...

I'm just starting to collect the beliefs I feel passionate about again, today seems to be about opening up to those ideas. Your blog adds to that.

Me? I get scared when someone challenges my ideas especially if they have a good argument. I’m afraid of losing or being wrong. I guess I need to face that fear. Smiles.

Kitty said...

I love having my beliefs, my ideas, my point of view and the things I hold as truth challenged. As long as it is done with dignity, respect and intelligence, I'm all for it! It makes me reconsider what I think and why. Occasionally I change my mind completely. Oftentimes it just strengthens what I know. Then there are those 'once in a whiles' when what I have always assumed to be correct, proper and right turns out to be a complete fallacy and my closely held ideas and ideals are discovered to be nought but a sham.

This can rather shake my world.

You temper a sword by repeatedly putting it into fire, it's stronger after the experience. I feel this way about myself. These times when I MUST re-evaluate basic conceptions, ideas and notions, even basic concepts I've always held dear, twist them from theories into truth... all the while realising that this particular new truth may change.... well, it's unsettling. But afterwards? I feel clear-cut, firm even potent because I've forced myself to bring aspects and details into sharper focus. Plus, I can now argue the point better.

I've married and divorced, twice. As I've obviously been wrong before, logic says I'll obviously be wrong again. But, I'm OK with that. I can change my mind and adapt, it's part of the growth process, it's being able to evolve and not stagnate.

So, go on and throw the challenges my way, I'll respond as well as I can. It may fluster me, cause me to sputter and resist and feel a teensy bit foolish for a while, but that never lasts forever. Let me hear your viewpoint. I'll listen, I may agree, just don't ever be offended if I don't concur. Discussion is a give and take and I heartily enjoy it!

Debbie said...

I believe that discerning the Bible correctly involves taking the information that God gave us and meditating on that. Often, a correct assessment involves scripture from other areas of God's word. In this case, the scripture certainly gives the impression by its wording that this was the birth order of those children. Nothing is said to indicate that it was not. The geneology bears this out as well. Why raise an argument on something so trivial?

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

No real "argument" by me, Debbie. As I said, it was a sincere question and what was interesting was the reaction, not the answer, to the question. And, yes, it was a trivial question (I specialize, I'm afraid, in being interested in details) but the worry it caused was not trivial. I guess the better way to answer your comment is that I did not intend it to be the "argument" that ensued. Complete surprise! Verrrry interesting. C

Debbie said...

Intrigued by your question, I looked up a synopsis of the book you read: "Ishmael" is a 1992 philosophical novel by Daniel Quinn. It examines mythology, its effect on ethics, and how that relates to sustainability. The novel uses a style of Socratic dialogue to deconstruct the notion that humans are the end product, the pinnacle of biological evolution. It posits that human supremacy is a cultural myth, and asserts that modern civilization is enacting that myth."
And "Ishmael" is actually a gorilla?
While I don't mind discussing my doctrinal beliefs with someone who knows the Bible well and whose life reflects a genuine belief in God, I don't consider the disbelief of anyone or the idea of evolution a valid "challenge" to my faith. God is supreme above all others and only humans are made in His image. We don't judge God's word, it judges us. To measure the Bible against any work of fiction or to seriously consider anything else is to admit our "unbelief".
Jesus said; "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the father but by me." I don't believe Daniel Quinn believes that, so I wouldn't take anything else he says very seriously.
Let the comments begin!

lila said...

I don't mind having my ideas challenged, but the "discussions" only takes place inside my mind.I HATE verbal arguments or confrontations...and those who can peacefully "wonder" about things and share their ideas quietly are few and far between!

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