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Reaction

by on June 18, 2016

                                                                        Reaction

                                                                by Marco M. Pardi 

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Newton‘s Third Law of motion.

All comments welcome.

When I was very young I took interest in the doctor smacking my knee with his reflex hammer.  Born lacking the gene: Respect for Authority, I determined to spoil his fun.  I would control my knee to give no reaction.  After many years I did succeed in reducing, if not eliminating that reaction.  But for far too long I failed to recognize the broader application: showing no reaction to the other kids who taunted me for being “foreign”.  Each time they acted I reacted, giving them exactly what they wanted.  Oh, perhaps sometimes something other than what they wanted, but who’s counting.

Now, so many decades later I can look back on a broad history of my own reactions and the reactions of groups and whole societies to the actions, real or perceived, smacking us somewhere.

Very early in martial arts training I learned that an explosive shout at your opponent caused in them an involuntary tightening of his/her muscles, making the distributed impact of your about to be delivered blow much more severe.  Sounded plausible, but I can’t recall a single instance of ever having used it.

Later, in school debates I learned, “Never argue with a fool; they cannot see your point no matter how clearly you make it.” I have forgotten that lesson at times, actually far too often for my liking.  Recently, with the expansion of social media we are confronted many times daily with action in the form of some written comments or diatribe which seem to cry out for a reaction.  A visit to a chatroom or message board assures us there will always be someone to pick up the gauntlet, and another to throw a different one, and so on.  It seems endless.

And, opponents can be quickly assessed by the speed with which they descend to argumentum ad hominem, all too common in the now pervasive cyber world where people can hide behind screen names or “anon”. 

But even in the real world of face to face meetings there can be pitfalls and trapdoors.  I’ve written elsewhere of an episode during my time in Counter-Terrorism and Emergency Response when, in a meeting of my agency with the CEOs of internationally known Non-Governmental Agencies I clearly stated what I saw were two very serious omissions in their contingency planning.  I was roundly denounced for my ideas. A short time later Katrina happened. An unknown but likely substantial number of deaths occurred that could be attributed to failure to act on my warnings.  The outcome for me was severe career damage. Why?  Because I “made” someone else – power brokers, in this case, wrong. 

I admit I did not see that coming.  But even if I had, would I have reacted to my discoveries differently?  I like to think I would not have.  I do not mind causing someone distress when they hold to a position which is clearly incorrect, though I usually try to shape the realization to make it “theirs”.  But I cannot abide other people paying the price for someone’s refusal to alter their views.  Lesson learned. Standing up for someone or something makes you a bigger target.

I’ve made naive reactions before.  In a methodology class taught by a very self-important instructor he was explaining the use of a concealed tape-recorder and mentioned that certain actions depleted the batteries quickly, but he did not know why.  “Being helpful”, I blurted out the reason.  I got no Thank you, or That’s interesting.  Just a baleful stare.  Only whispers from fellow students, You just screwed yourself.

So maybe mentioning the reason for battery depletion was, as the current saying goes, TMI – too much information.  Probably.  But striving for understanding and the precise behaviors which should flow from that is a hard habit to break.  Today, I might have used a computer to send an anonymous message to him with my information.   

It seems I have reacted for many years by speaking out, even to the extent of subsequently being asked to engage in formal debates with live and/or radio and television audiences numbering in the thousands.  In earlier years my brother often cautioned social gatherings with, “Don’t get into a debate with Marco.  You won’t understand what he says, but you’ll love how he says it.”  Well, that’s nice.  But if the conveyance of substance is the point, it hardly makes sense to concentrate just on form.  I hear the immortal words of the Sheriff in Cool Hand Luke, “Whut we have heah is a failure to communicate.”

So I have debated on a number of topics before large audiences, always trying to ensure my substance is understood.  Doing that requires clear specification of terms, leaving no opportunity for miscommunication based on someone incorrectly presuming my meaning.  It did not take long to discover that many people have no patience for establishing clarity; many people come to a debate with their minds made up and only waiting to hear “their side” score points.  Consequently, I reduced my profile considerably.

A few years ago I was asked to give a presentation to a meeting of the American Free Thought Society (“Free thinkers”) on the subject of non-corporeal existence, or consciousness after physical death.  Having some time before making a commitment, I quietly attended a few meetings of this society.  And, it took only a few meetings to realize they were living with a misnomer: they should call themselves the American Closed Thought Society.        

Quotations from their Scriptural literature, composed by the Saints Francis Crick, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, and The Amazing James Randi floated like, dare we say it, evangelical gospels (“good news”) over the congregants of the new religion of Scientism; a religion since the pronounced dearth of scientific understanding in this group left them no choice but reliance on faith. 

I realized a presentation, no matter how well grounded in Formal Logic and permeated with clear examples of veridical evidence would only be my appearance as the piñata for their self congratulatory amusement.  I declined the request.

Keeping this in balance, I’ve also done some media and public appearances for groups devoted to “spirituality” and “alternative” views.  But here again I made the mistake of assuming the audiences would welcome demonstrations of logic and clarity which would bolster their arguments with strict materialists.  Wrong.  “Puts you to sleep”, “doesn’t really know science”, “depressingly skeptical” are typical of many comments – when anyone bothers to make them, following these efforts.  Clearly, the hope was for someone to come in with a litany of new “woo-woo” stories, not a measured and careful analysis of stories already in common circulation.

Thus, having said all this, I’m out of the public arena.  I suppose that’s my reaction.  But I was never convinced that even the best prepared formal debate, or presentation did much to change views.  On the contrary, audiences are more often waiting for the dog whistle tuned to their favored pitch.

 

I will continue writing this blog because I very much enjoy doing so.  And, more than anything else, I enjoy the comments provided by others.  My greetings to all readers, and I look forward to your comments.

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39 Comments
  1. Do Not Feed The Trolls. Although I do still engage in this but now I just make stuff up for them to argue about just to let them go at it. Otherwise I’m too busy to play with my food.

  2. Always good advice, PM. Thanks, Marco

  3. My Journey Out of Darkness permalink

    I am very much into Spiritualism and do not feel the need for scientific proof; however, I recently heard you speak on one of my favorite shows and I found you fascinating! Which is why I now follow your blog. I loved listening to what you had to say and enjoyed thinking about it after the show was over. I believe that our society needs to come to the realization that keeping an open mind and being a fence sitter is the best option to ensure growth! Remember though, it’s not woo woo it’s true true! Just wanted to through in a hint of where I heard you!

    • Thank you. (Would you mind if I called you MJ?) I’m so glad you felt my presentation worthwhile and I sincerely hope you continue to be part of this blog. I agree with you, and have done some extensive work with Spiritualists going all the way back to 1972. I look forward to your further thoughts on that subject. And, I got the hint. Thanks so much, Marco

  4. My Journey Out of Darkness permalink

    Of course you may call me MJ! I definitely will continue to follow your blog!

    • There’s fascinating stuff in the archives as well 🙂

    • Thank you, MJ. I’m looking forward to your comments and hope you will find interesting material in the archives. Marco

      • My Journey Out of Darkness permalink

        I will definitely be reading them!

  5. “I refuse to enter into a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.” -me

    “I may not always be right, but I am never wrong.” -Arthur Eacret (my father)

    Like most people, I have my thoughts and opinions on many subjects, and I would like to think that there are like-minded people out there who would agree with me. I am intelligent enough to know that there are many out there who would disagree. That’s fine, they are as likely as I am to be correct. The secret, I think you would agree, is being willing to listen to each other.

    When I find myself in an argument, which is not often, I find that my words and behaviors are less free choice than reaction to the bile which is being shouted at me. I don’t like that much, preferring to enter into an intelligent conversation. “You are such an idiot!” is not a viable choice of words when attempting to sway someone to your point of view.

    There have been many times in my life when I have been persuaded to change my opinion. There have been many times when life itself has changed my mind for me. Times change, the world changes, and sometimes we have to change along with it.

    • Thank you, Rose. I remember in our conversations how you always worked for logic and clarity, and so seemingly effortlessly. I think that, in itself, sends some people into a rage, especially when they realize their position is indefensible.

    • I always like to say “I know enough to know that knowing is a knowledgeable thing to know.” 😛

  6. Marco, this post came at a time when I have recently reacted to some situations, and felt I provided the instigator with precisely what they wanted. It’s time to be more mindful, clamp my jaw shut, and simply walk away.

    • Thank you, Dana. I sympathize with that. Remember the story I told of the two monks at the street corner? Don’t carry that person with you………

      • It’s so good to see some new followers here. I hope they will spread the word and share this blog.

      • Thanks. I agree. This blog is usually read in 77 countries. There is no down side to signing on as a follower; no one will track you down. And, it makes providing a comment much easier. Marco

      • I am one of the new folks. Fascinating stuff here and Marco does a great job with explaining his views. As for commenting….

        This is a comment. It is only a comment.
        This is a comment of the comment commenting
        system. It is only a comment. Had this been
        an actual comment you would have been instructed
        to tune to channel 2 for more commenting. This
        is a comment. It is only a comment. This has concluded
        our commenting of the comment commenting system.
        This is only a comment.

      • Dear PM. In addition to our gratitude for your contributions, we appreciate your sense of humor.It’s all too easy to take ourselves seriously. Hopefully, others will also be moved to comment by your Public Service Announcement. Marco

      • I always say, “If you’re not having fun you’re doing it wrong.”

      • And my apologies for sometimes forgetting to thank y’all for compliments due to the 10 kittens currently terrorizing the house. I’ll have to make it short and then run to pick up whatever they have toppled, check for injuries and whatnot.

  7. Julie permalink

    “But I was never convinced that even the best prepared formal debate, or presentation did much to change views. On the contrary, audiences are more often waiting for the dog whistle tuned to their favored pitch.” I really loved this quote, beautiful description of, unfortunately , how many people get locked in views and fail to keep an open mind – often just the dilemma of being human I guess, you have a talent in expressing and articulating views/feelings beautifully thank you Marco, I really enjoy reading your posts and in fact read them to my husband and son at the dinner table as it is always “food for thought ” and opens up great discussions 😀

    • Thank you, Julie. I am truly honored that you and your family find my posts worth discussing. As you have no doubt seen, the archives are fairly extensive. If there is a subject you are looking for and can’t find, please tell me and I’ll try to steer you to it. Thank you again, and my greetings to your family. Marco

  8. It seems you are concerned with the way people will receive what you are saying to them. I’m not sure what this says about you personally. I don’t know you well, but I have a feeling you are sensitive and very careful with any chance of being misunderstood. Maybe there’s room for this in your life and career path, and maybe there’s not.

    Having a belief in something is much more exciting than having proof. Looking for proof is hard work and pops the balloon of belief. Journey’s song “Don’t Stop Believing” hold onto that feeling. Feeling is the operative word.

    It’s fun getting to know you though and I wish I lived closer. Coffee or tea in a group setting would be amazing. I don’t have a whole lot to say yet I’m a great listener and question asker. 😉

    Thank you for your posts and expressing your vulnerability Marco!

    • Thank you, Jessica. Your opening comment reminded me of what I often said at the start of a class: “People ask if they can tape record my lectures. Please do! I would much rather you have WHAT I said than what you THINK I said.” And so, after so many instances in which I came away wondering how that person got that idea from what I said, I’ve been perhaps overly precise in structuring my presentation. Yes, this has even elicited negative comments; “So concerned with being precise, his points are hard to follow.” Guilty.

      I sometimes fantasize the whole group getting together for a long week-end retreat. At the same time, I might make it a bit clumsy by over trying to not be the center of the discussion. Still, I agree. I would very much like the convenience of a group discussion within reach.

      Thanks again, Marco

      • I would be 100% for a weekend retreat. And Marco, I would happily have you at the center of the discussion.

      • Thank you, Dana. I suppose it will remain a dream. But, strange things do happen.

      • I think Skype can do a meeting. Everyone could sit in their robes, tux, evening gown or what have you. Of course it’s supply your own beverage.

      • True, but I prefer a face to face in the flesh.

      • Ah yes, The Sacred Order of the Luddite is always nice as well 🙂

  9. Interesting read Marco, seemed pretty clear to me. Sometime earlier this month, I happened to stumble upon a video with you and Jamie Butler on Youtube. It definitely gave me a more favorable impression of you, compared to the online version of “hiding behind the screen”, as you so succinctly put it.

    Do you have any recommendations of your favorite blog posts? It’s a bit difficult to choose what to read here because there are a staggering amount of articles and they’re all uncategorized. It’s like entering into (Alice in) Wonderland filled with paper and books sparsed all over the place (no offense). Anyways, cheers and regards.

    • Thank you, PSY. I apologize for the uncategorized list of entries, but I shy away from being the one to decide how they should be categorized. However, if you state a particular interest area I will guide you to the appropriate articles. Saying that, I must also say that I try to pose several different issues in individual articles to broaden their appeal. So, some of my suggestions might seem off base at first.

      • Alright Marco, I understand, maybe I was a bit critical, even if it was more an observation than anything.

        Anyways, well you probably know that I’m into themes such as Psychology, Philosophy, maybe Metaphysics, and stuff. I would be interested in reading something even more personal perhaps, similar to this article here. In any case, it’s not a big deal, maybe I’ll just go towards where I feel more drawn to. Thanks and cheers.

      • Okay. You might start with Reflections, and then read Zep Tepi, which is a later chapter in Reflections. I think you will find interesting material in each. Marco

        P.S. You will surely notice I don’t write fiction.

      • Ahah right, that’s fine about the fiction (or lack thereof), thanks again.

      • PSY, you might also try Species? for insights on another topic. Marco

        Thanks, MJ.

      • My Journey Out of Darkness permalink

        You are welcome, Marco! I am constantly promoting your blog. I keep telling everyone they WILL learn something!

      • Alright cool, will check it out later on.

    • My Journey Out of Darkness permalink

      Psy, that video is exactly how I found Marco. After watching it I decided that I MUST follow Marco’s blog. The pieces that Marco recommended are wonderful! I have even reblogged them and shared them in my FB group! – Michelle

      • Ahah yea, I know the feeling! Great to know Michelle, cheers.

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