I am Fallible!

It is both possible and desirable to bring up children entirely without doing things to them against their will, or making them do things against their will, and that they are entitled to the same rights, respect and control over their lives as adults. It is about the conditions under which human minds do and do not thrive, about how people learn and how knowledge is created, and it has far-reaching implications for all relationships and for all areas of life. It is radical. Lets take our children seriously. Give them the respect they deserve.

All human beings are fallible and can make mistakes. I may feel 100% sure that I am right, when actually, I am mistaken. There is such a thing as truth, right, and wrong, and that--through conjecture and criticism--I come to know and understand truths about the world including moral truths. However, what I never get is authority, proof that any particular idea or belief is one of those truths.

By thinking of family interactions in particular with that in mind, I address a very important problem: the problem of people in families hurting each other. I am not talking about corporal punishment, I am referring to the idea many people have--for one person to get what he wants, another has to suffer-–in other words, not get what he wants. We can all get what we want. No one enjoys making loved ones suffer. It doesn't have to be like that.

Improvement is possible and the best state to be in is one that I am solving problems and effecting improvements. When my family has a disagreement, instead of one person imposing his will on others, we try to solve the problem in such a way that no one gets hurt. Not even us parents. Parents are people too. There will always be unsolved problems and disagreements. What is relevant here is that we might well have found successively better states of mind in regard to that problem, each the result of successive failures to solve it. The aim is not zero problem: those who have zero problems are dead. The thing to avoid is not so much unsolved or even unsolvable problems, as a state in which our problems are not being solved--where thinking is occurring but our theories aren't changing.

What I'm advocating is mental progress. Solving a problem means doing whatever it takes to cause those involved to adopt states of mind that we prefer to our previous states and that do not cause us to hurt each other. This might involve taking some visible action, or it might just mean making a change in my mind.

Solving problems and making improvements doesn't come from a formula. It requires creativity and thought though not necessarily conscious thought--most of it is unconscious or inexplicit--expressed only in the brain's internal code, not in words. For example, a child who is learning to speak is improving his knowledge of grammar despite not being able to express in words his knowledge of grammar. Or, he would not be able to speak or understand English sentences. Similarly, when I am driving a car, I might be thinking about what to cook for dinner tonight and not consciously be thinking about driving at all; my driving is nevertheless controlled by your mind (or maybe not if you've seen the way I drive.)

Of course even when I am thinking consciously about a problem and I solve it, creating a preferable state of mind, I might be mistaken in my theory of what the problem was or how I solved it. As fallible human being, I am often mistaken even about my own mind. All I can do is to try to correct errors as best I can and keep improving things. To do that, it helps if I think that is possible. If I think that there is no possible solution to a problem or no way to improve a given situation, I might not be applying enough of my creativity to do any good. So if I want to improve things or solve a problem, assume that a solution to the problem is possible and seek truth. It helps if I desire truth and am open to both the possibility there is a solution and possible solutions. If I am not open to criticism, then even if someone comes up with a brilliant idea, the chances are I won't be able to take advantage of it. I try to remain open to other people's proposed solutions, even if those other people are young children. To increase the likelihood that I will solve a problem, actively try to solve the problem. Instead of complacently taking the view that a particular situation is unproblematic and that no improvements can be made, actively seek possible improvements. Don't miss a delightful improvement that would have created an even better situation. One improvement leads to another.

I don't mean I should be approaching life with pessimistic glasses on, always looking for trouble. On the contrary, optimism is very important. What I am saying is that good situations can be even better situations and that effecting such improvements is worthwhile and--for that matter--a source of joy. A child can be perfectly happy climbing the tree in my backyard, but might well be thrilled and excited when I suggest going inside and making a ‘climbing tree’ or a ‘house’ out of some tables, upturned chairs, and a blanket or two. I might realize I actually prefer to be indoors instead of outside even if I had been quite happy outside until that moment.

To solve a problem, I have to be truth seeking and open to criticism. I have to assume that a solution is possible and throw myself wholeheartedly into trying to solve it. I try to come up with bold conjectures aimed at solving the problem or making the good situation even better. Then I subject all the candidate solutions to criticism to eliminate any that don't stand up to scrutiny. Ideas should be judged by their content, not by their source. Otherwise, I might miss a really super idea from a young child. It is important to drop refuted conjectures rather than doggedly hanging on to them. If I am having a discussion about where to go for dinner and The Thai place we wanted to go to is full and I think a great solution would be to go to the Vietnamese place over the road, but one of my children doesn't Vietnamese, I might point out that the Vietnamese place also serves non-Vietnamese food, but if he also doesn't like the smell of Vietnamese food...What's wrong with him? I love Vietnamese. Well, if I tell him this, he might be ready to change his opinion of the smell, and re-interpret it as a lovely smell, but if he isn't, it is probably time to think of another restaurant or some other solution to the dinner problem. To put it simply, I keep making bold conjectures and subjecting them to criticism until I have a solution that everyone involved wholeheartedly prefers to any other candidate solutions any of I can think of at the time. (I call that a common preference, the preference I have in common.) I enact the solution tentatively. Why tentatively when all agreed wholeheartedly. Well, we can all agree and still be mistaken. Everyone used to agree that the Earth was flat. We might all wholeheartedly agree to go to a particular restaurant; when you get there, it turns out to be very smoky and we hate smoke. Or, even if the restaurant is exactly as we were expecting, it may turn out to be the wrong place to go because I myself wasn't as I was expecting. Remember, I can be mistaken about myself too.

It is not having problems that feels bad; what feels bad is being stuck, unable to solve them. Solving problems, growing as a person, and improving my life, my children's lives, and the lives of my loved ones feels wonderful, both on an individual basis and jointly. The more I do this, the better I get at doing it. The more I improve my life, the better my life is, and the more able I am to improve it further. The same goes for the improvements I make with my family, jointly.

How easy is it always to find solutions that everyone prefers? Do I have to have unlimited patience, time, resources and creativity, and be infallible. That is and always will be the human condition. I am fallible. It is not the distance I am from perfection that makes me unhappy, but being unable to move towards it. I don't have to be infallible or perfect to improve things. I don't have to get everything right! I don't have to start out right and have unlimited this, that, or the other, all I have to do is to try to set things up in such a way that what is wrong can be altered. As I said before, I don't mean attempting to create a problem-free state. It means simply actually starting to solve problems rather than being stuck. Happiness is not being without problems; it is being in the process of solving your problems.
I hope I didn't loss you, my friend.

4 encouragements:

Makita said...

You had asked about 3 column templates ... I did a google search for "Blogger XML 3 Column Templates" or "Blog Skins" There a several options out there.

I found mine at:


Stephanie said...

Thanks for sharing your thought process, I really enjoyed it.
We also try to solve the problems with a win-win situation. It definitely takes mental energy and a shift in thinking on all of our parts. It is worth the process.
I love the saying(don't know the origin)
*Don't believe everything you think*

Kaylynn's Mommy said...

Enjoyed reading your blog. Thanks for sharing. I have some friends who live in Magnolia, Texas who you and your family would get along with fantastic! They have the same thought process and they go to a homeschooling church where everyone believes that way! These people also love Winstin Churchill!

Thank you for your lovely comments that you leave on my blog! Your insight and sharing are very helpful to me as I am a new mom!

Sarah said...

Thanks for the tips, Makita. Taken me a good part of the afternoon tweaking one template found--as you see, I have a new look. I love 3-column webpage.

THANK YOU, ALL, for being my faithful audience. I can't believe anyone would finish such a long rambling.

How I wish we have a homeschooling church, Kaylynn's Mommy. It would be nice! My bestfriend is in Austin, Texas. I have thought about moving there as homeschool law in Texas is very loose, near NIL.

True learning-learning that is permanent and useful,that leads to intelligent action and further learning, can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner.
John Holt
Real heroes are men who fall, fail and are flawed, but win out in the end because they stayed true to their ideals, beliefs and commitments.
Actor Kevin Costner

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