Friday, November 24, 2006

On being hard to reach

I've given up on the idea of dealing with all of my email. I don't even read the majority of non-spam email I get these days. It would take many hours a day to deal with it all. Then there's the added problem that replying to email only encourages people to send more!

I've let myself become so busy that I even ignore some of my voicemail.

So, please consider this a blanket apology to everyone who feels ignored by me. I just don't have the capacity to deal with it all.


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Monday, November 6, 2006

Revolutionary Knitting Circle still drawing attention

It's pleasing to see the knitting manifesto still making the rounds.

A fairly new blog, the yolk - which seems to be associated with some sort of academic studies at the University of Alberta - has
a post discussing links between the Revolutionary Knitting Circle and DIY.

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Saturday, November 4, 2006

If only...

Lately, there's been a notable increase in people telling me things that start with "If only you...". Things like "If only you knew what I know..." or "If only you would follow this method..." etc.

Frankly, my back goes up whenever something like that is said to me. It's kind of like statements that start with "you should". There's an arrogance there - an assumption of superior knowledge.

The way I view things, there is no one answer to anything, so there can be no "if only" way to a perfect outcome. There are myriad paths to good outcomes, and there are many different ways to find appropriate answers to the questions we face. When someone claims to have the "only" correct knowledge, my internal attitude becomes very dismissive of what they are saying because to me they've already declared themselves to be wrong.

Note that I said "internal attitude". I try very hard to not externalize that dismissive feeling I have regarding what the person is saying - and actually try to push it away to let myself be open to hearing their perspectives. There are things to be learned from everyone and I don't want to cut off a dialogue that could still contain valuable understandings. So, I struggle to restrain my inclination to respond rudely, and instead take the situation as an opportunity to work on my listening skills.

Another challenge in all this is that belief in an "if only" answer is basically just an expression of ideology. I loathe ideology. Ideology is the death of questions. Why question things if you already have "the answer"?

If I have anything resembling an ideology myself, it's that questions, listening and dialogue are the only comprehensive answer. To give up on questions is to give up on the hope of understanding.

Answers, or questions?
In my experience, people seem to generally dislike being told what to do. This is at the root of my personal antagonism toward being told "you should..." or "if only you...". Someone telling me what to do is inherently assuming that they know better than me what I should be doing. It's hierarchical and patronizing - two highly displeasing things for me.

A far more effective approach, in my view, is to not come to the discussion with answers, but to come with questions. Where 'answers' function as unidirectional commands, questions open up dialogue and make people participants in the pursuit of understanding.

One of the things that has made knitting in public such a successful outreach tool for the Revolutionary Knitting Circle is that it invites questions. Whenever I knit on public transit, someone will inevitably come up and ask me something like "what are you knitting," or "you're a guy, so why are you knitting?"

Instead of me going up to people and telling them "there are terrible things in the world today that we need to work to change", a space for dialogue is opened up by the questions and whole conversations come out that let both of us share our experiences and understandings - and hopefully both gain a wider perspective.

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