I think that people become addicted to arguing. Why? Well, sometimes it does work. But they forget their actual outcome: to solve a problem or determine “what is true.” To experience more pleasure than pain in life.
Why then do people so often get exhausted, express frustration, anger and fear because of conducting or witnessing apparently endless argument? Because they have forgotten their ultimate goal.
ULTIMATE GOAL: To be happy
LONG TERM GOAL: to remove an obstruction to happiness
SHORT TERM GOAL: To create alliances to achieve something that cannot be done alone
IMMEDIATE GOAL: To determine “what is true?” in the “who, what, why, where, how” categories.
And since SOMETIMES, arguments can lead to clarity, and that to creating alliances, solving problems and achieving happiness…arguments can seem like a good idea. Oh, I’m sorry: “debates.”
But you can also become addicted to debate. Just as “combativeness” is a positive quality in some arenas, people engage in it inappropriately. Sometimes referred to as a component of “toxic masculinity.” (A question: would aversion to conflict, a positive quality in some arenas, if engaged in inappropriately be a component of “toxic femininity”?)
Another discussion. Anyway I think it is important to know when battles are not worth fighting.
I recently watched something fascinating happen. I asked: “who has ever changed the mind of someone who believes X?” (A controversial and polarizing political discussion).
Not a single person indicated that anything they said ever had changed a single mind. Not one. But, amusingly, people started arguing the subject right there and then.
Excuse me. What part of “apparently this doesn’t work” wasn’t understood? I say because people mistake the process for the goal. If the process leads to the goal, fine. But when it leads to frustration, fear, exhaustion, shouldn’t we consider that argumentation is the wrong tool? Aren’t we being toxic?
Let’s apply Lifewriting to problem solving on a social level, shall we?
CHALLENGE: To solve problem X
REJECT: There is no apparent answer
ACCEPT: to take the position that because we cannot see an answer doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist (otherwise, you slide into despair and destructive rage)
ROAD OF TRIALS: to keep trying DIFFERENT approaches, modeling successful approaches in a variety of contexts until an answer is found.
ALLIES AND POWERS: Whatever teachers, role models, comrades, friends and family you can enlist in the effort. Brain storming is a good thing! Try this question: “a hundred years from now, this problem will be solved, no matter how it looks now. What was the process?” It is nothing but ego to assume that if YOU can’t find an answer, an answer cannot be found.
CONFRONT EVIL, DEFEAT: you are gridlocked in argument, and the problem recurs again and again.
DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL: Exhausted, you fall into the ego state of “If I can’t find an answer, there is not answer.” Let alone the “all is lost” thingie, considering that people have this need to believe that somehow, their generation is so important that they have front row center to Armageddon. Every generation seems to think this. So far, they’ve all been wrong.
LEAP OF FAITH: Remember that every generation creates answers the previous generation hadn’t thought of. Of course, they also create new problems. That’s another story. Over and over again, the adults of one generation have insisted that they are the shit, that they have all the answers, and that if they have failure of imagination or will, That’s All Folks. They are almost always wrong.
CONFRONT EVIL–VICTORIOUS. You keep trying, and either find the answer yourself or inspire others to find it.
STUDENT BECOMES THE TEACHER: You share the answer you have found.
This is a way the “Hero’s Journey” can work. If there IS no answer, it doesn’t hurt to keep trying. If there could have been an answer, and you stopped trying, you have betrayed your grandchildren.
Now, that said, there are distinctions along the way. Role models will demonstrate the proper logic patterns (first: is it true?) or tactical approaches (“nurture your tribe. Don’t argue with sleepers or snakes”) and so forth. But the overall pattern is pretty solid.
START WITH THE ASSUMPTION THAT THERE IS AN ANSWER. Don’t ever give up.
MODEL SUCCESS. If other people, groups, or countries have solved the problem…look there. What were their belief systems, emotions, tactics and strategies? If opponents disbelieve these things would work for us, are they assuming we are more basically different as human beings? Is their basic view that of human equality (“their answers won’t work for us!” Could that be true if human beings are basically equal? Yes? No? If not, does that match YOUR core belief? Remember, no matter what they say, their ULIMATE belief in equality/inequality is faith-based. Ultimately, if what you are saying challenges that faith, they will reject it regardless of the logic used, until or unless their belief changes. It is best to consider them “asleep” in this arena, remembering that you are asleep in others, and may actually be wrong now. “Asleep” is probably the kindest way to attribute “wrongness” about such a core issue, as it relates to universal humanity, and doesn’t require you to consider them “evil” or “stupid”. Just…asleep, and may awaken at some future point.)
- Love yourself
- Love one other person
- Study history, embrace humanity without guilt, blame, or shame
- Support your Tribe, avoid sleepers and snakes.
- Win with integrity.
In combination with a belief in Equality, and the Hero’s Journey, you have a syntax for success, if success is possible.
Frankly, I always believe it is possible to win. But sometimes you have to define the terms for yourself.
Like…not having your time wasted.
BLACK PANTHER (2018)
I’m not really going to review this film. I love it. If you want to know more about my reactions and thoughts, check out the FB Live video T and I did yesterday: BlackPantherAfterAction or:
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS Do NOT read unless you’ve already seen the movie PLEASE!!!
When I say that this may be the most important “Popular entertainment” film I’ve ever seen, I mean it. Myth matters, at least partially because it embeds the patterns of life at a deep unconscious level, where all wisdom must reside to be useful.
Let’s look at the pattern of the Hero’s Journey applied here:
- HERO CONFRONTED WITH A CHALLENGE: T’Challa wishes to be a good king…and a good man as well.
- REJECTS THE CHALLENGE. He believes he can do this by simply following in his father’s footsteps.
- ACCEPTS THE CHALLENGE: Tradition and his own heart puts him on the path, although his father’s ghost warns him: “it is hard for a good man to be king”
- ROAD OF TRIALS: Return to Wakanda, the kinghood ceremony, travel to Korea to capture an enemy, return to Wakanda empty-handed, challenged for the throne by a cousin he never knew.
- ALLIES AND POWERS: His family, his country, his ancestors, his friends. Courage, intelligence, martial prowess, and deep emotional reserves of wisdom: he knows who he is, even if he still hasn’t fully awakened.
- CONFRONT EVIL–DEFEATED. He discovers that his father killed his own brother and abandoned his nephew Eric “Killmonger” in America. This breaks his heart: he no longer has the strength of his ancestors. He fights his cousin, and is defeated (but does not submit).
- DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL: Thrown into the abyss, he suffers a near-death experience.
- LEAP OF FAITH: He rejects worship of his ancestors to become his own man. Ironically, this is precisely what must be done to honor them. His father had made an error. Accepting his father’s humanity allows him to take the positive without being limited by the negative. And even more: to embrace the spirit of the Black Panther without being limited by the flawed human beings who represent her. Compare to the “if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him” notion. To become a king, he must kill his IMAGE of the king. Reject father-worship to be a worthy son.
- CONFRONT EVIL–VICTORIOUS. He defeats Killmonger, and offers him mercy.
- STUDENT BECOMES THE TEACHER: His mercy offers Killmonger enlightment or awakening at the very end of his life: he sees the waste he has made of his life. That he was consumed by vengeance and hatred when he could have found family. Became the evil he sought to fight. But dies with defiance on his lips–teaching T’Challa in turn. And T’Challa unifies the goals of his ancestors (to protect their people) with a 21st Century obligation to help build a better worldfor all.
Was that goal valid? We can argue about the “real” world, but in the MCU–absolutely. Remember why Tony Stark built Ultron? Because in Avengers, he saw a vast alien armada, a force before which humanity is, in Nick Fury’s words, “hopelessly, hilariously outgunned.”
Fury built the Avengers. Stark built Ultron. Isolation from humans makes sense if your enemies are humans. But if your enemies are off-planet, countless SF movies have posited that we will need to pull together.
ONLY A UNITED EARTH CAN SOLVE THE ULTIMATE WORLD PROBLEMS. The history of mankind is one of growing complexity and connection. T’Challa sees the bigger picture, and must find a way to step into it. That is HIS fate as king.
Killmonger, then, was correct in his vision but poisoned by the dragon he had fought, a broken-hearted orphan who only “awakened” in time to save his soul…but not his body.
T’Chaka stained his soul making a choice to protect his crown…but an act motivated by love (for his children, because make no mistake: Patricide is NOT forgiven. It is entirely reasonable to fear Killmonger would have arranged an “accident” for T’Challa and T’Chaka and taken the throne. Presumably, his father was all he had. The best thing T’Chaka could have done is wiped the boy’s memory and found him a good family to raise him as their own) and anger (rage at betrayal) and arguably shame (the humiliation of a public trial for his brother would have created vast problems. I don’t know if Wakanda uses the death penalty, but if they did, he might have considered killing his brother to be Royal Justice. Its messy) created a Shakespearean nightmare. Black Panther is a Hamlet and broken eggs omelet.
T’Challa had to find a way to the future, while respecting the past. A path for his people, and all mankind. This requires forgiveness. Is it reasonable he could do this?
Did he kill Zemo in “Civil War”? No? Do you have the slightest empathy with Tony Stark’s “I don’t care. He killed my Mom” pursuit of Bucky, even at the cost of killing Captain America? Even thought Bucky had no control?
If you can buy that T’Challa had more emotional mastery in a week than the brilliant Stark had after 30 years and half a billion dollars of therapy, you are believing in a human being who can also move beyond racial and national conflicts to see the larger picture. T’Challa is such a Magical Negro that if he weren’t balanced by an entire country, he’d be Harry Potter singing “Mammy”.
But he IS balanced by Wakanda. He has mother, sister, father (deceased), friends, counselors, subjects, lover (ex and future), and alliances. He is probably the most fully realized character in all the MCU, with the possible exception of Thor and Spider-Man.
Now, Killmonger, T’Chaka, Suri, and Nakia all had their own lovely arcs weaving in and out. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to plot them out, and see Coogler’s beautifully woven braid. THIS is fine storytelling, world-class, and totally deserving of its success.
This is the power of myth.
(If you would like to learn more about Afrofuturism, please accept the gift of a free lesson from our DREAMS TO BANISH NIGHTMARES course, available at: www.WAKANDALIVES.COM)