The sound that is not made by any two things striking together

 The title of this blog post is the English translation of the word Anahata, known as the Heart Chakra, in Kundalini Yoga, and represented in the picture below. I make only a passing reference to the practice here, but will use the concept of this "sound" as an illustration in the subsequent post.

 We have all felt the urge to defend our views against criticism, or to champion our views to those who do not share them. For any disagreement of consequence, the experience is generally one of confusion and angst, in which what seems so clear to you is utterly unconvincing to your partner(I will explain why I use the term 'partner' later). It feels to you like you are making a cogent case, and therefore it must feel the same way to them. You respond to their case, and their responses, and this appears to be a genuine crossing of swords. Swing, parry, riposte, reset.

 The truth of the matter is that in most disagreements, each party has their back to the other, boldly thrashing against nothing, while only thinking that they are meeting their partner swing for stroke. Assuming you are not dueling a madman (as you should always, out of humility, assume), the first thing that should occur to your mind, is that the sounds you are making at one another are the sounds that are not made by any two ideas striking together. Perhaps a more salient analogy would be that of two individuals attempting to cross swords from atop the peaks of neighboring mountaintops, when a true meeting of swords can only occur within the adjoining valley.

 The mountains of the above analogy refer to all the underlying assumptions that we, as beings who form belief systems about the world, carry into every discussion. This belief formation is completely out of our control, even if we do have free will, because it is based on the information we have available and the level of understanding we possess of the connection between this information and the actual state of the world. These beliefs can only change in response to new information, or a new understanding of how existing information can be understood, not by a simple clash of the ideological overlay on top of these beliefs.

 Now, why do I call two individuals in disagreement 'partners'? The fact is we are all in the business of divining the true nature of our experience as it relates to the true nature of nature. True beliefs, insofar as they have any relationship with the world, enable us to predict future events; the closer our view is to reality, the more accurate those predictions. This is clearly demonstrated in the scientific method, and in the success of the scientific project, and it is uncontroversial. Whenever you engage in disagreement with another person, on any topic, you are both striving towards a better understanding of the true nature of nature, and thus, whether you recognize it or not, you are partners in this pursuit. Try to view disagreements in this light, and you might find your natural predilection to an emotional reaction towards the proponents of a competing view largely attenuated.

 The most transparent manifestation of this concept takes the form of a "loaded question". "Does your mother know you are gay" is the schoolyard version, but it is by no means limited to children. In philosophical terms, it is known as "begging the question". What is operable, under the surface of most disagreements, is the true engine of conflict: presuppositions. When certain facts are assumed, certain other positions are entailed. Yet if two people bring competing assumptions into a discussion, they are inevitably drawn into irreconcilable differences of opinion by virtue of the incompatibility of certain beliefs not even under discussion.
"What we've got here is failure to communicate."
 That's right, boss. This failure is doing immense damage to political discourse in this country, pitting family and friends against one another across an ideological divide that so-called "polite" conversation renders insurmountable. So how do we, as partners, live and breath and communicate in compliment to one another? You descend your mountain and invite them to do the same, that's how. The moment you find yourself in an Anahata discussion, e.g. The God Test: Why Really Everyone Believes, immediately begin considering what your partner is assuming, but which he or she is not openly discussing. Then do the same with your position. Have some humility. What you don't do is attribute to your partner all manner of character or cognitive flaws, or secret malicious motivations, on the basis of their disagreement, because this violates the fundamental trust that lies at the core of social behavior and underpins the basis of civil society.

 This process takes time, hard work, and persistence, and is often mistaken for a desire to simply "argue for argument's sake". There's no guarantee that you will win out, or even find common ground at all, but if you care whether your beliefs are true (and you should), you have a rational duty to engage with your partners.

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