Learning, not Winning

This morning, my childhood friend Scott Weaver has no mother. My father’s former coworker Dave Weaver has no wife. When my high school Spanish teacher Cindy Weaver’s funeral ends on Tuesday, the people will go home, and Wednesday morning, all of this will still be true. I thought this thought as I made my way from the bedroom to the computer room this morning, and now I can’t come up with the first detail of what I think must have been a benign dream. The most disturbing thing for me is that in the sixteen hours since my mother let me know Cindy died, I’ve thought myself to the edge of crying, into a still calm, towards guilt, into abstraction. My emotions are not themselves in control, yet I can’t say any rational process is controlling them either. Instead, something that is not my will yet is not what I think of as emotional momentum is fiddling with whatever chemicals make for emotional responses. I must admit, I’m a bit scared. My reactions have been something other than human.

I’ve had some good conversations on The Ooze lately. One of them has had to do with the character of evangelizing, while another has dealt with the second amendment and its defenders. I am pleased that my own tendency in online discussion is tending away from winning debate points and towards achieving an understanding of those with whom I disagree. I’ve come to the point where I am a pacifist, and I’m in little danger of “changing my mind.” At this point, “my mind” is so bound up in disciplines of prayer, in expectations of friends, and in an eschatological mindset, that a mere cognitive encounter isn’t going to be able to shake it. I think I’m at the point now where, like my theological mentors Yoder and Hauerwas and Kenneson, I can do some honest thinking about just war and about the logic of the American system without necessarily being “tempted” to become adherents of those traditions. Three years ago I don’t think this would have been the case. But now, I have the confidence that I can understand without betraying, and coupled with that I’ve lost the ability to be satisfied with winning debates. I want really to know what’s going on in the other person’s system so that I can really know the difference. If there is a singular difference between what I was intellectually three years ago and what I’ve become, this has to be it.

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