You Guys are Too Picky (130)

In this episode John and Gregg discuss a quotation by Yogi Bhajan, submitted by an Untangling Christianity listener.

John sees the discussion about Gregg’s response to the Yogi Bhajan quotation as an extension of their conversation about Christian Praise music (in episode #128, “Let them have their music”). John’s concern here is similar to his concern in episode #128: How do we know if / when we are being too picky with our criticisms?

John explains how, in the UC Facebook group, the listener who posted the Yogi Bhajan quotation concluded that she was approaching such quotations in a very different way from Gregg.

John explains this difference using the analogy of buying bananas at the grocery store. In essence, we rarely find the “perfect” banana. So John sees UC listeners as “bringing bananas” to the group (i.e., bringing their valuable ideas, quotations, etc.) and yet Gregg typically sees “too many bruises” on the bananas (i.e., listener ideas are often criticized and perhaps rejected).

John’s concern is that listener’s ideas are not being honored, and that listeners may think that nothing that they post is ever “good enough.” As a result John worries that listeners might feel discouraged or be deterred from posting.

Gregg’s initial response is that the Facebook discussion about the Yogi Bhajan’s quotation—a Sikh teacher who introduced Khundulini yoga to Canada—was excellent. Further, Gregg acknowledges that he seeks agreement but expects disagreement, at least initially, because many of the ideas that he is promoting are not well known / seem to run counter to standard views within evangelical circles.

Gregg also agrees with John’s “banana” analogy, up to a point: like bringing their “best bananas” listeners are bringing to the group ideas and viewpoints that they like / value. However Gregg would liken these ideas or viewpoints not to bananas but to a variety of different objects—tools, like step stools or screwdrivers, that help listeners to live their lives or understand the world better.

So where John argues that listeners may not feel comfortable posting their valued ideas due to Gregg’s disagreement, Gregg agrees that this is possible.

Thus Gregg approached the a more recent David Benner quotation (offered in the UC Facebook group) differently, by first indicating what he liked about it and then explaining what he found difficult and / or problematic. To that end Gregg asked: What the listener appreciates about the thinker / quotation / idea in question? So what the thinker / quotation / idea in question improves upon—both how it does this and what exactly makes it better.

Gregg explains his criticisms of such thinkers / quotations / ideas in two ways. First, shorter quotations are necessarily harder to assess because there is often insufficient context to be confident that one has fully / correctly understood them. Second, Gregg’s criticisms are typically informed by the work of thinkers who, in Gregg’s assessment, offer better and fuller explanations of the same matters (such that their explanations cohere better with how we experience such things in real life).

In the case at hand Gregg’s main point is that, while a particular quotation or idea may be helpful to inform / remind oneself of something, we all read and understand such quotations or ideas within the context of our own knowledge and self-awareness. So where John may realize that Yogi Bhajan’s comment is not licence for us to ignore all negative responses from others, there is nothing in the Yogi’s words to indicate this (and so prevent readers from drawing this conclusion).

The risk? Taking the comment at face value allows people to endorse viewing the (potentially valid) critiques of others as simply “someone else’s problematic way of being,” and so lose an essential source of information about themselves!

Further, Gregg acknowledges that Bhajan’s words—like anyone’s words—are informed by his context and best interpreted by that context. Placing Bhajan’s words into their Sikh context then creates an understanding of the quotation that Gregg believes essentially stands at odds with his Christian views, and which he would ultimately reject.

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