Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Opening the Door

I feel I'm responsible for addressing the other side of the equation - if we desire not to have the door slammed in our face, what do we do?  How do we get the door open?

The religious proselytizers will pitch hard the benefits that believing in their religion will do for you, hitting on the key words that society has already inculcated into your mind as things that matter. Your soul. Your comfort. Your fear of death. Your sense of purposeless wandering and lack of well-being are particularly targeted, as these are things Westerners pine about.  Obviously, reading this, you may not be a Westerner, but then my experience with other cultures tends to suggest that doorknocking to sell you religion is not a phenomenon.  I'm not even sure it happens anywhere other than Anglo-America.

I like to tell the JW or the Mormons (these two representing 90% of such callers - Pentecostals and 7th Day Adventists have gotten rare) that heroin pretty much offers me a great soul-saving package. Heroin puts me at ease and removes my fear of death.  It satisfies every benefit they can pitch - and all without having to sing or sit near other people.  Once I see my proselytizers start to get uncomfortable, I proceed to begin arguing their need to give up religion and pursue heroin.  But I digress.

(that said, I used to use John Bunyan's writings as a template for kicking the shit out of born-again Christians, but heroin is in fact more fun)

Before I go any further, I need to address what sort of person we're looking to invite us into their thoughts.  Right off the top, its a different matter than proselytizers - they're only interested in money, so anyway they can get you to give it to them works.  Money is democratic.  Every idiot has some, so it's always more practical to begin with the stupidest people.  But then, there are so many of the stupidest people, a religion tends to run out of sales staff before running out of buyers.  People like me - and presumably you, since you've driven through this wall of text to get this far - are too much trouble for religionists.  There are easier sources of money for them.

Matters of mind are a bit expensive for stupid people, so typically one would like to start with the smartest people.  Unfortunately, many of the smartest people have already read and gotten completely bored with the internet, long before they're ever going to reach your blog.  They haven't the patience to sit through a million pages of drivel before lucking out and finding something good. For them, the internet matters only when they're researching something - and they don't research things on blogs.  You're fairly safe in guessing that they're not reading you.

What you can shoot for are two reasonably common groups: those who are intelligent but fundamentally anti-social, so that they do have the time to read dreck while steadily building up a framework for finding better stuff; and the young who haven't had time to get tired of anything yet. If you have a brain for a bat, and you want to swing it online, these are your targets.

The trick will be that you're bound to encounter a great many people who are anti-social who either a) feel this is a badge of honour; or b) are wholly unaware of it.  The former will see anything you do or say as a challenge to their world view - since the act of presenting a position online is a very minor way of becoming 'the man' . . . that being precisely the thing they're rebelling against.  These are not that difficult to recognize.  After all, they wear their badge on their sleeve.  Try to remember that for these people, the subject matter is not their principle concern.  Their principle concern is resisting - you, thought, change, the world, whatever happens to present itself.  Some of these will seem quite intelligent - many of them will actually be very intelligent - but the need to lay waste to everything in arm's reach will make your message a complete waste of time.  Don't let it bother you. These people were broken before you met them.

The unaware are far, far more difficult.  They're not rebelling, they just don't get it.  For whatever reason, they avoided schooling or they drifted through it (right up through until they received their doctorate) with the fundamental belief that all that is knowable is already, somehow, known.  Thus, anything that doesn't automatically fit the criteria of their education (or lack thereof) will sound bogus to them.  Keep in mind, these are not actually intelligent people - these are educated people, who have their specific problems depending upon which education they've received.  These are people who will continue to support the old way of doing things because it was the way they were taught, by their professors, their parents or their grandparents - who, being personally known to them, are beyond being wrong.  You, the unknown, must obviously be, as you are unknown.

I don't present these two groups in order to graph out ways in which you can reach them with your message.  I present them so that you understand that both will waste tremendous amounts of your time.  Just so you know - you'll let them.  You'll feel convinced that if you make the right proposal, if you suggest the right plan, if you describe it more slowly or in more intricate detail, you'll get your message across - but no, you won't.  Don't worry about it.  These two groups have been around a long time:

"This boy is ignorance, this girl is want.  Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased."

Remembering always that Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was about trying to change someone's mind.

You do not have at your beck and call ghosts of past, present and future to throw at your audience, so try to spend the time you have on this earth speaking to the people you may meet with open minds and open hearts.  They're the only people who ever really change anything, anyway.

How do you reach them?  Be honest.  Be human.  Accept that you make mistakes in your message and admit those mistakes as forthrightly as possible.  Write a great deal, not just about your message but also about all the things that make you a person with that message.  Keep working.  Examine your work but also yourself, and recognize that you're not done learning, either.

When you express these things to an audience, directly, understand that no person's disregard for you personally can matter in the larger picture.  Know confidently that anyone you meet who speaks about you, to you or to others, without also presenting what you've said or giving it due attention, is a person without importance.  People who matter are concerned with information, not personalities.  Endure the slights and see them as evidence that you're making headway - for you are.  Those who want and those who are ignorant only scream when they're threatened.

Finally, remember, no matter how you feel on any given day, or what evidence you have regarding your position in the world, you are not alone.  That feeling of lonesomeness you feel every once in a while is nothing more than you having lately lost your focus.  Regain it.  The people out there listening to you are happily waiting for more news of you.

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