Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thinking it through

A long while back I was a moderator for our local homeschooling email list. Where we live, the range of types of homeschoolers is about a wide as it's possible to get. The challenge of the email list was to preserve a modicum of civil discourse when militant unschoolers ran up against people who believed in curriculum and lesson plans.

There was one woman on the list who was particularly difficult. I'll call her Za. She was vociferous, a wannabe anarchist, someone who hit the 'send' button every time a feeling made its way across one of her synapses. Za's way of coping with life was to say whatever came to mind, especially if it was outrageous and convoluted. It's probably unnecessary to add that she felt no compulsion to consider how she said things; she was provoking in the extreme. Otherwise sensible people jumped in to argue against her, until eventually someone untangled the mess and peace was restored.

It took me a while to realize that Za had fine-tuned a method of getting other people to do her thinking for her. But at what a cost! It appalled me that Za was willing to incense others rather than spend a while thinking through her feelings herself. Fortunately (for us, at least), Za ended up putting her kids in school, and she disappeared from our email list. 

I hadn't thought about Za in years until this morning, as I was editing an article that clearly hadn't been thought through. Did the writer mean this, or that? Was he leading toward point A or point B? Was there a point? And if there was, why was I the one who had to find it? I abandoned the effort to fix things, and wrote an email to the writer asking for clarification, instead.

Clarity is good. I like clarity. There are times in life when the fog rolls in, and there's not much we can do about it. It's far more common, though, for us to live in a fog of our own creation. We don't always take the time to figure out what we're feeling, or why. Just a tiny bit of introspection goes a long way toward making the world a better place. As I say to my kids, think through it before you do it. It helps.

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