Critics delight in deriding Don Rumsfeld's slight-of-mouth when he talks about Iraq and the larger war on radical Islam. Of course, he doesn't call it a war on radical Islam because that is too direct even for the supposedly straight-talking Defense Secretary (incidentally, I think that it's about time we revert to the older, more honest moniker, War Department). There is much to criticize about the Secretary's handling or mishandling of Iraq, but even he has a moment of clarity from time to time.
Mr. Rumsfeld is famous for uttering "we don't know what we don't know." This statement has been taken as a sure sign of the old guy playing with truth, but this is one of his sentences that I am coming to appreciate. Truly, in more areas than we wish to acknowledge, we do not know enough to know that we don't know what we don't know.
In the spirit of that statement, I am going to attempt at least to embark on a project that on the surface looks like a hedge, but is, I hope, an earnest and honest pursuit of something.
I am throwing out all of my preconceptions, opinions, theories and beliefs and will try to look at things intelligently and dispassionately, no matter what evidence I find and no matter what conclusions I come to, if I come to any at all. The foundation of belief is at odds with intelligence and the moment we start to form theories and hold onto opinions, we lose the ability to remain open. Perceptiveness loses and understanding becomes virtually impossible because we don't want our beliefs challenged or our opinions changed.
This is a minor gamble, seeing that I have for the most part lost my audience already, for whatever reasons. I don't do this to provoke for the sake of it. There are bloggers all over the place who are amassing large readerships by holding onto dogma and slamming any alternative viewpoint. I can't compete. An honestly, I don't want to.
By coincidence, I have found this quote from Ken Kesey on Jack Grant's fine site:
I’ve never seen anybody really find the answer — they think they have, so they stop thinking. But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.
A good example of open thinking and inquiry is Jack's post here. And some of the comments are quite telling. Many people, upon having their cherished beliefs challenged resort to invective and ad hominems rather than engage in a search.
I had most of my preconceptions shattered on the morning of September 11, but I instantly veered into another, diametrically opposite set of preconceptions as if everything I had "known" before was false. So I lurched from polemic to polemic in search of a comforting and comfortable mindset. It was, and has been, harrowing at times. It has been painful much of the time as many friends have chosen to abandon rather than engage. But I have not been completely uncomfortable in my isolation. Complacent is a good descriptor. Fearful is another.
I am now more afraid of losing any sort of curiosity and understanding than in losing connections or ethereal associations. So if my traffic trickles to the seven a day I started out with, so be it. For those who want blanket endorsement of any particular agenda, look elsewhere. There are many blogs to pick from that are much more popular and much more cemented in their dogma. You know who they are.
I am dislodging my thinking and opening to mystery and inquiry. I hope that you will stop back, comment (if anybody's reading, anyway) and engage.