I am an introverted feeler, who happens to think a lot. I like to hear what other people are thinking and learn from that. I can’t always keep up, but that has never stopped me from listening and wanting to learn, and interacting internally with what I learn.
I process what I hear, of course, internally as a feeler. And when I try to interact, ask questions or give my two cents to thinking-based conversations, my input often doesn’t even seem to make sense. Since I already struggle to put words to what is inside of me, when what comes out doesn’t make sense to the hearer, it’s embarrassing, demoralizing and I don’t want to try again, because I already put so much effort into what was misunderstood.
In addition, the intensity and rapid logic exchanges which happen between intellectual thinkers easily overwhelm and intimidate me. When what I say doesn’t make sense to a thinker, and the thinker challenges me, I might remain confident inside myself on my perspective, but I rarely can find the words (and certainly not confident, logical words) to explain it better or in terms that can be understood or even seem worth considering by a deep thinker. Sometimes I wonder if my feeling interaction (even if I’m agreeing, but say it in a different way) seems to cheapen or lessen the impact of the intellectual depth that is being communicated. I don’t know, and I’m struggling even now to explain this. But, I’m trying to do so, because I want to say thanks to two thinkers who I can listen to and learn from, and who manage not to intimidate me totally in the process.
Reading (whether in books or on the internet) is a good way for me to listen to thinkers and follow a variety of perspectives on an issue without being quite so intimidated. Still, I find that I can’t handle angry, cutting dialogue, which seems to attack the person being disagreed with. So, there are conversations I’m interested in, but cannot follow because the intensity is so great I can’t hear the discussion. That’s not a criticism, because obviously many other people can follow and participate in those conversations. But, it does mean that when I find a place where I can listen in to deep discussions and even disagreements without feeling intimidated and overwhelmed, it is wonderful.
That is how I feel when I read John Hobbins’ Ancient Hebrew Poetry and Peter Kirk’s Gentle Wisdom. I couldn’t say what percentage of the conversations that take place there I totally understand. But, it is enough that I keep going back to have my brain stirred and challenged. And most importantly, I feel comfortable reading their sites, because of the humility and kindness which seems to undergird their strong opinions and disagreements.
I hesitate to link from this post to their blogs, because when I express this kind of appreciation, which I feel deeply and genuinely, it seems easily perceived as sappy and overly sentimental. To say nothing of, I’m paranoid of having my motives questioned as if I’m linking to their blogs to up my own traffic. I am not competitive. I could care less about technorati rankings. But I’m deeply moved at the moment by what I appreciate about these two blogs, and I wanted to try to put it into words, even though I’m aware that the above assumptions could be made.
Something I saw in a book my son is reading (Across Five Aprils, by Irene Hunt, set in the time of the War Between the States) made me think of how I feel sometimes following these two blogs, and the appreciation I have for the powerful, but gentle ways in which deep thinking and discussion take place there.
One of the characters, Jethro, while helping his mom hoe the garden, is telling her all about what he learned in school–how it was proven that the earth is not the center of the universe. His mother is not quite sure what to make of all of that.
His mother looked thoughtful. “The Lord God created the earth and all upon it, Jeth. I don’t like to hear that His work warn’t of the best.”
“But don’t you see, Ma, He created the sun and moon and stars, too–some a little bigger, others maybe a little purtier. Seems like people on earth believed we had the best diggin’s jest because we wanted to believe that–because it made us feel important–” . . . .
Her eyes lighted a little. “Well, you done me a favor, tellin’ me things I ain’t never learned and givin’ me somethin’ to ponder over. It ‘mazes me, Jeth, it does fer a fact, the way you kin recollect all the things Shad tells you and how you kin put them from his way of talkin’ into mine.”
Like Jethro’s mother, I deeply appreciate John and Peter’s speaking their intellect in humble ways that do not block me from hearing and understanding the things that I’m able to. I appreciate their graciousness, which doesn’t feel patronizing. Since I easily feel patronized, that is a big deal to me. (And I’m really hoping my point isn’t misunderstood or either of them feel insulted by the analogy I’m making with this quote.)
Well, the next few paragraphs after the above quote don’t really fit into what I’ve been trying to say on this post, but I like the rest of the dialogue too much not to include it here:
She hoed in silence for a minute and then paid him the great compliment of going back to his story.
“Did you tell me what that old feller’s name was, the one that done all the figgerin’?”
“His name was Copernicus. I kin even spell it fer you if you’re a mind. Shad made me learn how to say it and spell it too.”
“Sounds like a furriner.”
Jethro nodded. “I allow,” he agreed.
Ellen sighed, “Seems like furriners is allus stirrin’ up somethin’. Well, the pot can’t call the kettle black–look what we’re stirrin’ up amongst ourselves.”