an intellectual melee

February 29, 2016

I attended Dane Esethu’s Evening of Intellectual Discussion just this last Sunday. Here is my report:

I didn’t know what to expect, and that’s was part of the fun for me. About ten of us showed up and we split into two groups. We were told that he will post a topic, and then we are to discuss it as we understand it. First, we had to state what type of animal we would be if we could be one. I said I would be a horse given my penchant for traveling, adventure, and eating. And of course, a horse is the master when it comes to resting, something I always enjoy.

Our first topic of the night was the creation of spirituality. Almost immediately our group delved into the proposition that spirituality is synonymous with religion. The topic of religion always sparks certain sensitivities and that was no different in our group. One gentleman, full of passion, discussed how Abrahamic religions are a function of culture and location. He didn’t hold back, and held a dim view of religion. Another member outright despised religion altogether given he hated the rules of religion and the fact he felt most religions do a beat down on us. I couldn’t help but chime in that I’m a Christian, but not here to force my views on anyone, but that I was raised Catholic, as this particular religion came up on our discussion. I conveyed that I left the Catholic faith for a non-denominational faith, specifically due to the beat down I felt the Catholic religion administered while growing up. I didn’t like or agree with the slay of rules this particular faith handed down or the feeling we got of inadequacy and lack of worthiness. I don’t know if this is what the others were referring to when it comes to organized religion, but this was my interpretation. On member said she was spiritual, but not in an organized religion kind of way, and moved day-to-day in her spirituality. We discussed, dissected, and opinioned on whether spirituality is strictly a religious thingy, and concluded it can go beyond those borders.

So there you have it, each person added a unique viewpoint, some with a ton of fire in their beliefs, and this added spice to the evening. It forced me to consider other points of view even when they might be different than my own, to gain a new perspective. This wasn’t merely an intellectual discussion, but an emotional one, a topic that reached into our gut. And that added relevance to our time.

For topic number two we swapped female members between the two groups. And our topic for this round was to discuss how feelings lead to beliefs. I have an interest in how the human brain operates and what makes us tick, and I do real a lot of self-help books and there is a book, a New York Times bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, that really delves into the nitty gritty of how the human brain operates, how the conscious integrates with the subconscious. Every book, every seminar, every person I’ve talked to all point to the same thing. That emotion, or feeling, is what makes our thoughts come alive. My analogy would be is that just like gasoline powers the engine that makes the car run, feelings are the gas that makes our beliefs come alive, and results in action. Most agreed with this analogy, and some members struggled with how to vocalize and explain what our topic meant to them. It’s not easy!

But we had no shortage of emotion! The fire came out, and we quickly focused on police action, given the recent shenanigans of police action as highlighted in the media. Clearly, in our group, we were a first hand demonstration that feelings do lead to beliefs! We came away with a very negative, downcast view of police in general, that they are supposed to uphold the law, but so many times they are the ones skirting the law, and getting away with it.

I personally have a different point of view on this and played devil’s advocate. I’ve experienced the short end of the stick in police honesty when an Officer of the Law lied about how I executed a turn late night in Milwaukee those years ago. At the time I was mad over getting screwed on this, especially since an Officer of the Law totally lied to serve his own purpose.

But by the same token I work with Police Officers everyday at the school I work at. We rely on them to help provide a safe environment for all of us. They do their jobs everyday with professionalism, and honesty is at the forefront of what they do. I talk with them frequently and know them as people, not just officers. I have high regard for them and what they do and how they do it. And I said as much to our group. I hope that I was able to state my beliefs in this matter without denigrating the views of others. It’s my personal belief that many times we are negative towards the Police, until we need them, and then we’re grateful they come to provide safety to our situation. Our group did question the idea that Police are there to provide public safety versus our own personal safety. One is not the other, we concluded.

But this is the beauty of these kinds of discussions. Fire and passion and feelings and emotions come to the forefront like a steamroller, yet we can all appreciate and respect those differing points of views. We had both ends of the spectrum present, from passionate to the point of visible anger to those who were much more timid in offering a viewpoint. This is always the interesting part of group dynamics. The timid mixed with the aggressive. I’m somewhere in between.

This whole evening became a creative learning experience for me. I revel in it. I love the passion and fire and no holding back. I want to be better at that myself. There is something to be said for that. And these discussions, they stretch and pull the brain and force us to really think about what we believe and how we interpret a statement. Really makes you think, I say. I gained steam as the night went on, and felt well rewarded for attending. I can state with firm conviction that attending one of these sessions is both eye opening, stimulating, and enlightening. And you just might run into something you never considered before or cemented an internal belief you’d been waffling on. And best of all, you just might meet some really cool, passionate people. Fun!

P.S. One aspect of the evening that I appreciated is that Dane really knows how to run these discussions, to keep them moving and on topic. He is a master at not letting passion become personal towards another, to keep the emotions focused, and best of all, to streamline the process. Thanks Dane!


Social and Emotional Learning and Mindfulness


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