Friday, August 14, 2009

Surface motion vs. deep ocean currents

People frequently want to discuss discrete topics and extrapolate agreement about that particular topic to assume that you agree with the underlying philosophy of the person or group espousing that topic.

That's probably not very clear so let me start with an analogy.

Before we had GPS, navigators used a sextant, almanac (book of tables of info), and chronometer (watch) to determine their position on the surface of the Earth. And we're talking about naval and aviation navigators well into the 1960s using the sextant as a primary navigational device.

Way back in those dim days I took a class in celestial navigation and learned how to use a sextant. Like the navigators who had gone before me, I believed in and trusted the results obtained from that process.

So if someone were to ask me if I believe in the efficacy of the sextant, I would agree wholeheartedly. The sextant is a useful and accurate navigational tool. I'm with ya on that one, pal.

If that person were then to ask me if I believe in a geocentric universe, I would vehemently disagree. What amazes me is that the geocentric-universe crowd is amazed by my dismissal of their underlying belief. They say, "But you believe in the sextant just like we do. Celestial navigation was developed from the context of a geocentric universe. Therefore, if you believe in that, you surely must agree with us that we live in a geocentric universe."

And their basic facts are essentially correct. The sextant and its use as a navigation tool has its roots and function in the discredited geocentric view of the universe. But their logic is obviously flawed. This is a case of convergent evolution of philosophies. Birds and bats both have wings and fly but they do not come from a common ancestor. They are an example of convergent evolution. They come from completely different roots.

In the same vein, geocentric believers and I both come to a belief in the efficacy of celestial navigation but we do not arrive there from a common history or root. We simply happen to intersect there, having arrived from radically different, even opposing, basic philosophies.

Therefore, although I might agree completely with the geocentric-universe crowd about one or more specific, even significant, concepts, I am in utter, absolute, and violent disagreement with their underlying philosophy.

So if I agree with you about X, or Y, or Z, or even if I agree with you about all of them, please don't assume that I agree with the core philosophy that brought you to X, Y, and Z. I may have gotten there from a completely different path and it's even possible that, although we agree about X, Y, Z, or more, I find your core philosophy unattractive or even repugnant.


  1. In my many years in the SCA I was often in leadership positions, and confident in my beliefs,and big on virtue and ethics. In my activity as an unschooler helping others hook up with more information about unschooling, I've seen similar behaviors in others around me. I figure it's something about me.

    People will preface a statement with, "I don't agree with everything you say, but..." and then agree with something. It seems to have something to do with a fear of being sucked into my gravitational force or something (speaking of celestial confusion), or fear of being associated with me, even though they've written a letter to me to agree with an idea, or ask for help or to thank me for something.

    With me, when I write to people, I assume they know I'm not thinking I agree with everything they think, do or say. My husband, my best friends, my kids--all have ideas and beliefs or prejudices or fears that I don't share. They also have areas of calm and courage I don't have, and so we help each other out in the places where one "gets" something (intellectual or interpersonal) that the other doesn't get.

    Just more water into the ocean; I might not be thinking anywhere near what you were thinking when you wrote.

  2. Hi, Sandra,

    Thanks for your comment/addition. This was just kind of a rant which welled up specifically from a recent discussion with a Libertarian and flowed into years of similar discussions with libertarians, Libertarians, or (pseudo)history buffs who call themselves "Classic Liberals" which actually means "very conservative." Political/philosophical in its origin but applicable to a broad range of experiences.

    I often have the reverse experience, too. I seem to disagree significantly with someone about a specific, granular subject but discover that, at root, we are pretty congruent.

  3. of course! because correlation does not necessarily mean causation. nor does it necessarily mean common or similar premises and beliefs.

    but sometimes... it does. and in those cases, the common ground might be ripe for planting seeds that enable the person to shift their paradigms closer to ours, and/or vice versa, depending on the topic and our paradigms and principles.

    and of course, no one is required to plant any seeds. but for me, it's nice to notice when the ground may be fertile and to point out the shared fertile ground, for those times when i do opt to plant seeds.

  4. hi Frank,
    so be it. for me, it's not necessarily about proactively *trying* to convince someone to "convert", as it is about remembering how it feels to have my views, values, and behavior attacked, shamed, criticized, and remembering why i made an intentional decision to try my hardest not to do that with my kids or other people. it's a personal *internal* goal thing for me that happens to also play out externally.

    we're all at different places in our journeys and even now, there are places i'm more prone to controlling than i'd like to be. (think four teens, a 5 day camping trip, and my car. ack!) it's an ongoing work-in-progress and evolution for me, and i lack the imagination to see why it wouldn't also be that way for other people.

    in this evolution, if i attach myself to changing people, i *would* be out of time and patience, and i'd be likely to feel frustrated and exhausted. instead, i'm attaching myself to remembering why *i* want an encouraging, respectful, and collaborative style as much as i can manage it. for me, my self, my own reasons.

    for me, it's a crucial distinction that i'm attached to what this style does for ME. (i'm selfish like that.) within the parameters of time being finite. the times that seed-planting behavior also seems to result in people being receptive to questioning themselves and shifting to more respectful parenting/living is gravy. i like gravy. *especially* if i think it might make kids' lives happier. extra, extra gravy when the adults also see how it benefits them, and the ripples circle wider. of course, no one else needs to think about this or do this my way. (except in my head, where clearly, i'm *right*! for ME.)

  5. Lynelle,

    Some people have the patience to respond endlessly to people who are discussing unschooling philosophy.

    I don't often write about unschooling per se and I've never considered myself an apologist for unschooling. Most significantly, I have WAY less patience than most. When someone is (IMO) clearly coming from a philosophical root which is antithetical to mine, I value my time too much to want to waste it on them.

    If someone has the patience to do so, I'm happy for them and awed by their persistence. It's not in my nature.

  6. it's nice that nature has many different flavors! ;)

  7. Lynelle, I'm just old and grumpy by nature and very jealous of my time. Obviously, someone hasta spend the effort to interact with those who are curious about unschooling or any subject you're a part of.

    That "someone" is typically not me. Maybe sometimes but not usually.

  8. Frank,
    you certainly don't need my approval. just to be clear though, i'm not disapproving. just saying how it works for me. some of it fits my nature; some of it reflects ways i'm re-shaping my nature.

    i totally understand about being protective of time. i realize it's not an endless resource and i've become much more selective about how i spend a lot of mine. i *love* some of the things you prioritize your time to ~ music, flying, sailing, sharing, giving, oh my!

    me, i'm cleaning behind our oven today. parts of our kitchen and oven that haven't seen daylight in years. it's not pretty. which explains why i'd rather spend time commenting on posts. ;)