Hey, Mom! The Explanation.

Here's the permanent dedicated link to my first Hey, Mom! post and the explanation of the feature it contains.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #260 - Embrace Uncertainty; Question Everything

Here's me on 1305.14 at the office of my therapist, Dr. Brady Harnishfeger
Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #260 - Embrace Uncertainty; Question Everything


Hi Mom, Time again for some T-shirt content. This is one I have been wanting to reprint for some time, and it seems fitting for post #260, which feels like a milestone to me.

I am still getting over the plague infestation that put me on the couch for four days last week. It's still lingering. I am launching this post two days late, so it's Friday 1603.25 as I type. This has been a busy week. I have two tests, a computer program, final grades for Park, plus the usual daily work, plus still not feeling well and then there's been some family drama, which I will share with you privately. All of this is draining and taxing.

I don't have much time this morning, as I have to go study for my Calculus test.

And tonight I am seeing the Indigo Girls in concert live in Grand Rapids.

For now, this post is good advice for me to remember.

Also, I recently had a friend write me privately and describe what I am doing in this blog as "heart-centered." I loved that description, and thanked her for her kind words. She also shared with me the term "radial acceptance." Both of these terms resonate with me, and I will probably explore them more in a future blog entry.

For now, enjoy this T-shirt reprint, as I think it's one of my best.



T-shirt #64: Embrace Uncertainty; Question Everything

Here's me on 1305.14 at the office of my therapist, Dr. Brady Harnishfeger
If college gave me anything valuable, and this question is open to debate, it instilled in me the value of questioning everything. From my first days at college, my mind opened in new ways to the power of possibility and to the mode of critical thinking. Drill backwards. Why? Is this accurate? Can this be viewed another way? Why am I rejecting what you are saying? Is there value in what you saying? In those days, my main credo was "question everything." I was unsatisfied. I was searching for answers. Not much has changed today. I am still searching, and though I have reached some conclusions, or what feel like conclusions, I have added to the credo a second motto that keeps me open to possibility.

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.


The absurd notion of one

by Timothy Freke









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.

In 2009, I was inspired to write about Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" : There's No Shame in What You Are Feeling. I faced several arguments from some readers about what I wrote in that blog. In response, I wrote a rebuttal that I believed would be a good introduction to my thoughts on embrace uncertainty. Now, four years later, I would rather close with this rebuttal, hidden in a jump break. If you have read through to here, thank you. Either way, I will see you tomorrow because unlike four years ago, I have found the time to post to a daily blog.

Many people have a difficult time with criticism because it feels like an attack, even if it is not an attack on them. It's a unique gift to be able to step outside of one's own perspective and look at a debate from an intellectual point of view. This always comes up when people read my criticism. There’s all these specious arguments about free will and freedom of choice.



For instance, with my blog about Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl,” I hear arguments about how Katy Perry is an adult and can produce whatever songs and videos she wants. Well, of course, she can. I am vehemently against censorship. I am not arguing that her song and video should not exist. But if she is going to put those products out there, then I have the right to criticize them.


With this criticism, I am not even really criticizing Katy herself. She may be a fine and likable person. I wouldn’t know. And I am not making an argument for censorship. What I am doing is reading the signs, uncovering the subtext, analyzing the implicit messages that the media product, the meme, the infotoxin, transmits to an unwary and passive public.

I am always going to be instantly critical of ANY meme that glorifies one thing over another thing, thus negating or dismissing the other thing, marginalizing it, fearing its difference. In this case, it was the glorification of heterosexuality over any other sexual identity. I felt that Katy Perry’s video needed analysis and criticism as it is so insidious. It appears to be a positive statement for same sex desires, and yet, it is not at all. But that’s just my opinion. I believe in my opinion; I am arguing for it, but I accept that other opinions that differ from mine may have validity.

The greater issue is the red herring sidetrack of introducing the issue of censorship where it does not belong, of dismissing valid criticism with the argument that artists may produce whatever they want, or worse, of making a psycho-sexual analysis that I lust for Katy Perry, and since I will never have her, I shred her artwork in a public venue. To all of this, I say, balderdash. But it’s a great concern because these are the kinds of roadblocks students would throw up all the time in response to media criticism. 

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.


Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.

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- Days ago = 262 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1603.23 - 10:10
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