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Echo chambers and critical thinking

Posted in books, and magick

Lately I’ve been reading a ton of new-to-me authors. Books about philosophy and spirituality. I read a lot anyway, but my current selections have required a lot of deep thinking and critical thought.

I love it. Normally I read history or science, books where I am taking in facts written by an expert (or someone who has interviewed experts for the book). I don’t analyze them too much, just enjoy them. So flexing my mental muscles so much is delightful. I can almost feel my neurons lighting up with connections as I read and think. It’s glorious.

(And I’m thinking about doing a book blog. I used to, ages ago. Might resurrect that.)

I was talking to someone this morning about Jordan Peterson. I asked why he listened to the man, when he’s against trans rights. My acquaintance said he tries to listen to people whom he doesn’t agree with, and often finds value in some of their work even if he doesn’t like the person. And it got me thinking.

On the internet, it’s really easy to get trapped in an echo chamber. It’s also easy to write off someone’s work completely if they say one problematic thing. I think my acquaintance is right; it’s more nuanced than that. Someone can be both great and terrible, and you can learn from the good parts even while acknowledging the bad.

For example, I’m currently reading Stuart Wilde’s Infinite Self. It’s a roller coaster of reactions. About 70% of what he says is worth listening to, and he makes some good points about ways to approach spirituality. But he also believes we shouldn’t help those worse off than us, because it would be interrupting their spiritual journey. And that there is no such thing as a truly innocent victim. It’s repugnant.

But I am reading every sentence with more awareness than I normally have, because I want to take in the good ideas and make use of them. I can separate the wheat from the chaff as I go, and appreciate a great idea when I see one. I’m also not getting angry about the things I don’t like. I’m analyzing, not getting overly emotional about it.

That said, I have no desire to financially support someone who is, like Peterson, transphobic. I will not buy his books (if he has any; I’ve only heard of him making YouTube videos, but I imagine there are books somewhere), I will get them through the library or borrow from friends. I suspect it’s a fine line to walk.

I’m going through a period of great personal growth right now, I think. Taking in new ideas, tasting them to see if they’re congruous with my personality and worldview, and incorporating the ones that pass muster. I’m also learning to speak up for myself more. I attempted to read Alan Chapman’s Baptist Head trilogy last week, and when it wasn’t to my tastes I bluntly said so to the people who suggested I read it. I was polite, but explained my reasoning. It was accepted and we all moved on. Even last year, I would have made some bland but positive comment about the book and then quickly changed the subject because I was afraid of making people angry when I dissented. So that’s growth, too.

This journey I unwittingly started on a month ago is taking me to new and wonderful places. Stay tuned.

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