Saturday, March 5, 2011

don't insist

Sometimes I wonder if it is possible to tell anyone anything worth knowing. Yes, yes, I know -- any one of us might go on a heart-felt or intellectually-impeccable toot and lay out arguments or philosophies of great value. And there's nothing wrong with it. But the notion that one (wo)man might convince another in any useful way? I doubt it.

This morning, the old chestnut crossed my mind: "All news is local." To my mind, this is simply true. But to another, it may just be an intellectual bauble, something to 'prove' or 'find meaning' in. Proofs and meanings are a good starting point, but I don't think they pan out over time: Each has to find out for him- or herself. It's nothing to get depressed about and it doesn't mean we have to curl up in a ball of passive silence. It's just the way things are.

All news is local, to my mind, because (be careful of that word) news is about people, and the differences between people, if such differences actually exist, are minuscule. And the people who watch or read the news know it. There, for example, was no less a person than U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sounding off the other day about the fact that because U.S. news media have become so inconsequential with their tits-and-ass reporting (she didn't put it exactly that way) that Al-Jazeera had become a more credible way to find out what is happening in the world and, by extension, around the corner. Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and even the Seychelles are around the corner and up the block.

But there's no convincing someone of that 'truth' just as there is no convincing anyone that Buddhism's Four Noble Truths make palpable sense:

There is suffering.
There is a cause of suffering.
There is an end to suffering.
There is a way to end suffering.
 I always liked the line in the movie version of "The Godfather:" "Mention it. Don't insist." I guess it can be seen as natural to insist ... no one wants to be lonely and, although insistence never guarantees a reliable gathering, I suppose that insistence can seem like the best tool available. So ... chocolate is to die for, Republican philosophy sucks, Jesus is the one true way, the Japanese make better cars than the Americans and war is foolish.

The expectation that agreement will dissolve loneliness ... well, if you do it often enough and find out often enough that it doesn't work well, what does that leave? I think it leaves each of us to convince ourselves. And how is that accomplished? In practice, I imagine. In action. In trial and error. For example, I no longer have to try to convince myself I can ride a bike since I already know how to ride one. If you can agree with yourself, isn't that enough? Sure, share those agreements with others if it seems appropriate, but ... don't insist. The greater the insistence, the greater the doubt. Isn't it enough to be at home when you are at home?

You convince you. I convince me. Sometimes we're wrong, but that's what practice is for -- to correct our errors just like anyone else ... Libyans, Tunisians, Egyptians or Seychelles islanders, for example.

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