Thanks to all who came out on Wednesday, for the first John Harvard's tapping in almost 3 years if I'm not mistaken. I enjoyed the round table format, even though we did have some trouble keeping the conversation centralized. I am happy that everyone has so much to say, but I want to talk about the virtues of intellectual self discipline and also courtesy in order to smooth out our conversations. I think that in the beginning of the year we were doing fine with sort of this thing, but with this last tapping having occurred, I have to say a few things:
0) I apologize for my lateness to the last few tappings, I will try to be more on time in the future, but there is a certain extent to which I am not in control of my destiny when I don't have a car. I hope everyone understands
1) Firstly, take a deep breath. Relax. You're not in school. Take it EASY! People are getting very rabid in the first half hour of defining the terms of discussions. Remember, those terms are up for questioning the entire time, and they are often revisited during the more actively reasoning part of the discussion. If you want to question the terms, look for that brief lull and take advantage of it when it occurs.
2) Sort of in relationship to the last point, we all really need to practice our courtesy in discussions in allowing people a space in which they are able to enter discussion. Some guidelines I'd like to include, with the caveat that some of these guidelines may be waived in the case of a full blown argument.
- Don't cut people off: Cutting someone off is a funny thing. Generally, If I cut Mark off while he is talking, I'm paying attention to what he is saying, but I find it so horribly offensive for whatever reason I can't let him finish expressing his thought. Mark and I have this habit of agreeing with each other, but if I cut him off to tear his reasoning apart, I'm really not looking at the complete picture of what he's attempting to say, mainly because he didn't finish talking. How do we remedy this situation, especially in light of Mark's long winded nature? Well, it's a matter of self discipline for both of us. For me, it involves working on my capacities of courtesy, by allowing space after Mark is finished talking to enter discussion politely. Then, for Mark, in this example it would be a case of intellectual self discipline, thinking before you speak, and expressing your thoughts clearly concisely. Both are paramount to a good discussion.
- Side Conversations: Side conversations are a more nebulous thing. After the first hour or so, people are tend become frustrated with the discussion and want to have their own little side conversations, and that's acceptable, as things usually fragment with things like cigarette breaks. However, for that first part, it is RUDE and OBNOXIOUS when you start a side conversation and someone else is talking. Making a singular snarky wise-assed comment to the person sitting next to you is acceptable, especially because side comments like that actually do impact the main discussion, but going on a full on diatribe to the person next to you is not. The worst of this occurs when multiple conversations happen at once, which I find to be quite disorienting and unproductive, so let's try to avoid that if at all possible.
- Don't tell people to shut up: Despite all the rules that I just enumerated on how to discuss and act properly, there is no one single person that is the arbiter of these rules and the judge on what counts as a side conversation. Telling people to shut up is silly and unproductive. If you think someone is out of line, then attempt to stop discussion and address what is going on directly, and reasonably through questioning. For example, if I think Rob and Tom are having a dumb side conversation, I would stop the discussion, ask what they were talking about, and if they defend themselves well, kudos to them, but if they don't, then they suffer the embarrassment of talking about nothing of significance in what is supposed to be an intellectual discussion.
I will post the summary of Civilization separately.
Love and Peace,