The origin of the English word “symposium” is a lot less academic than it sounds in modern usage. In ancient Greek it actually meant “drinking together,” and was generally done after a meal, as the Greeks normally didn’t drink with their meal. “Its enjoyment was heightened by intellectual or agreeable conversation (italics mine), by the introduction of music or dancers, and by other amusements.” (Century Dictionary)
We would be naive to think there was always unanimous agreement at these symposia, but the discussion was generally framed in the context of civil exchange with the idea of learning something.
We’ve come a long way — in the wrong direction.
I’ve been thinking lately about the delicate balance (there’s that word again) between standing firm in your position on the one hand, and being open to reconsider on the other.
It all comes down to one fundamental question: are we more concerned about being right or being enlightened?
Surely all of us have evolved in our thinking on certain subjects. I most definitely have. This would obviously have been impossible if I were so entrenched in one way of thinking that I couldn’t see any alternatives. The areas where my thinking has changed — where I’ve changed my mind — mostly happened because I was seeking the truth. I’ve wrestled. Grappled. Questioned.
If your point of view is different from mine, I will gladly listen to you, but only on one condition: is your opinion thought through? If you are just reciting a party line or dogma, you’d best move on. If you are letting anger cloud your judgment, you’d better take a step back, take a moment and consider what you’re saying.
If we both listen to each other in a convivial atmosphere of mutual respect and common quest for truth, we will all be much better off.
And we might both end up changing our minds — at least a little. And that’s a good thing.
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