|Here's me on 1305.14 at the office of my therapist, Dr. Brady Harnishfeger|
In 1998, I was hired by the Gender and Women's Studies department at Western Michigan University to teach a media studies course called "Media and the Sexes" that would have been more aptly entitled: "Gender and the Media" or "Gender and Media Studies." I previously wrote about this job in T-shirt #37.
The central question posed by this course involved the intersection of gender and media, forming a kind of chicken and the egg type conundrum. Do media products reflect our ideas about gender as a culture or are our ideas about gender germinated and cultivated in the media products we ingest (often whether we want to ingest them or not)? My answer to my students about this question was "I don't know." It is a complex issue. And there may not be an answer. In fact, it may not be necessary to ask the question. If we want to transform our culture (and that's another question that's open to debate), then for this cultural transformation, attitudes need to be changed, and it doesn't really matter where or how they are formed. Focusing on transforming the attitudes is the key. If the attitudes change, then, well, the attitudes will have changed. It may take generations. But already the attitudes of today are more advanced and sophisticated than they were ten years ago. Social media has played a significant role in creating dialogue and dissemination of diverse viewpoints. We are poised on the cusp of great social change in our culture. Paradigm shift time. The Singularity is near in all kinds of ways.
So, back to the shirt. I created the motto "embrace uncertainty" to go along with "question everything." It made sense to me that some things did not have answers or that one might spend a lifetime seeking these answers. It also occurred to me that certainty can be a terrible thing. With certainty, people are closed off to difference, closed off to possibility. Certainty breeds conformity. You must think like me, dress like me, like what I like, act how I act, or I am not interested in having you around.
Granted, certainty in some things is essential. I am not uncertain about the horrors of rape, child abuse, and a host of other crimes or abuses. So, let's take that obvious counter argument off the table.
Just focusing on possibility, on respect for difference, and love of diversity, "embrace uncertainty" can help us to hear the opinions of others because a great many people cannot even get to the point of tolerance for opposing viewpoints because they are shut down and closed off before they have even fully heard the opposing view.
Why is this? Why do we as humans (or maybe more appropriately Americans) have trouble accepting the opinions of others? We have a mass insanity of conformism: everyone must agree, or there is something wrong.
Years ago, when I started teaching, students would parrot and oft-used phrase, one I found myself using, “I respect your opinion because you have the right to your own opinion.” The statement always preceded an attack upon the opinion, which, is what I was seeking: open dialectic. However, I arrived at another conclusion after a year or two of teaching. I respect all "reasonable" opinions--important emphasis there on the word "reasonable." I crave and thrive on difference, I adore the myriad and quotidian (and not so common) variations of humanity; however, I have absolutely no respect for opinions that pander hate and/or violence; I have no respect for the tools of prejudice and discrimination. I have no tolerance for those views, no respect, and certainly, no acceptance. And it's usually these opinions, ones promoting hate and/or violence, that are propelled by the greatest and most steel-hard certainty. There's often an almost fanatic and maniacal certainty behind those acts, at least the ones not lost in a a haze of rage, insanity, or blind emotion.
But reasonable difference of opinion, argument, dialectic, those things are my greatest sustenance. And though I may argue for my own views, good arguments give me pause, strong and compelling arguments force me re-consider and re-evaluate, to have doubt, to embrace uncertainty. And that’s one of my greatest mottos: Embrace Uncertainty. Because “certainty” has ruined a lot of lives...
Recently, I have been teaching a mythology course, and the more I often I teach it, the more I love it and its subject matter. The course gives me the chance to lecture with passion about one of my favorite subjects: Jungian Psychology. Last night, I linked Jungian thought to many world religions (especially eastern religions), the ideas of the British and American transcendental romantics, and gnosticism. We discussed the meaning of life and the collective unconscious. We hoped that the idea of "everything is connected" is real, though recognized that we are open to possibility, questioning, and the willingness to embrace uncertainty with this hope in our hearts. I spoke ardently about a book I dearly love called Jesus and the Lost Goddess by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, a book which questions established ideas about literalist Christianity in what seems like new and exciting ways but which are very old, the views of the original Christians. We watched many excellent videos, one of which I wish to share here.
Years ago, I started another blog: SENSE OF DOUBT. I had intended to write about embrace uncertainty there, but I became too busy with finding employment and making a marriage and a family and so I posted only very intermittently to the blog and never came around to writing about my main credo.
Whew. Glad to have that off my chest after four years.
- chris tower - 1305.24 - 12:01
PS: The picture of me in my T-shirt was taken, as the caption shares, in the office of my therapist. As a lover of psychology, I have always wanted to be in therapy, but, for many years, I could not afford it. Now that I can manage to make use of it, I am zealot for therapy. Being open to possibility, embracing uncertainty, or rather freeing one's self from certainty about some things, is truly part of the therapeutic process.