Lately, I’ve been watching quite a few videos on youtube. I find many of the discussions that the more thoughtful videos engender to be quite instructive. I wonder at times if people really listen to each other’s words either in the videos themselves or in theirt comments and replies. I find some of the debates fascinating. Questions such as whether suffering is objective or subjective. Do we create our own universe and everything in it or do we perceive reality as being objective and/or consensual? When we conceptualize our perceptions do we use language or does language come as an expression of those perceptions? I find all of these questions to be fascinating.
At times it seems apparent that for at least some of the people discussing these issues, the opposing points of view cannot even be conceived. It appears to me as if they cannot map the opposing viewpoint onto their view of reality. At the point in the discussion where these areas get hit on each other’s maps, the conversation is what science fiction writer Samuel Delaney called rupture.
In the now unfortunately out-of-print novel Lady Slings the Booze , Spider Robinson has his characters discuss the term rupture and how to deal with maps that may be different from our own.
“After a few seconds of silence, she managed to find some words. “Joe, are you familiar with the phenomenon Samuel Delany calls ‘rupture’?”
“Hey, I never get that carried away.”
“There it goes again. Rupture occurs when you think you are in the middle of a conversation with someone. . . and suddenly discover that you’ve merely been making noises at each other, that there is a previously unsuspected chasm between you beside which the Marianas Trench is a pothole. We have come to a pointof rupture, Joe. You don’t know what I mean, and I’m not sure I understand what you said. I think we must be using different maps.
” The street I’m pointing to doesn’t exist on yours.”
“Okay. How do I get one of your maps?”
“You’ll just- have to draw your own, I’m afraid.”
I sighed. “Look, Lady, I’m not trying be to difficult. But how the hell am I supposed to do that?”
Priscilla spoke up. “Map-making isn’t hard. Just tricky.”
“I’m listening,” I said politely.
“Four stages. The obvious three are: look around you carefully, record what you see, and integrate it. It’s the very first part that’ll trip you up, and it’s the most important of all.”
“It’s the whole thing,” Lady Sally corrected. “The other three happen automatically; you couldn’t stop ’em if you tried-once you do the first thing.” –
Damn it, the PI isn’t supposed to be the straight man. “Which is?” –
– “Throw out all the old maps you already have in the glove compartment,” Priscilla said.
Lady Sally nodded. “Forget all the reports of earlier explorers. You can’t discover America if you keep shying away from the edge of the world. And if you do find it, you’ll waste years asking to be taken to Kublai Khan.”
Why would we wish to open our minds or maps to new territories we haven’t accepted before? Why travel anyplace new? I can think of several reasons. Perhaps we wish to learn whatever the new outlook may teach us and in my experience there exist few viewpoints, opinions, philosophies or places that have absolutely nothing to teach us. Even what may seem to be an absurd notion to us may lead to some fascinating paths or fancies. Perhaps the more points of view that we can understand, the more comprehensively we can defend our own .Perhaps as the Danish physicist Niels Bohr said “The opposite of a correct statement is an incorrect statement, but the opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth.” . and It might be that the ‘profound’ truths that oppose our own may be the hardest for us to map.
No matter the reason, I find it difficult to understand how people have these troubles entertaining viewpoints that seem to be in opposition to their own. After all if the metaphor of mapping new territory does hold up, wouldn’t most people enjoy a free trip, no matter where it might lead?