Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blogspot Sounds Like a Childhood Disease

Blogging does seem very attractive to me; however, there are so many voices out there hoping that what they say and do is somehow significant. I don’t want to add to a meaningless cacophony, like those I have seen who track their weight loss or workout progress. Like, who really cares? Others I read have meaningful religious, political, and philosophical value, but who spends the whole day ploughing through tons of even meaningful stuff?

Since this is an assignment, I will go for it; and who knows, I may become addicted and inundate your in-box with my latest revelatory drivel.

What does critical thinking mean to me? What I hope to do as I read or listen or interact with another is to think and react actively and thoughtfully. What I do, in fact, is not always so. Critical thinking would seem to indicate that you are looking below the surface, always thinking profound thoughts, looking for deep meanings, discerning. But often, if the writing, for example, has an expressive lilt, if the words are transporting, tension-building, or riveting, I forget to be critical and kind of get swept along. It is only after, I may find that I am in disagreement or agreement with the underlying message. The language itself has been enjoyable.

For a history assignment recently, I read an excerpt from a book by Vincent Harding. I so enjoyed the sing-song text and the powerful metaphors and emotion, that I went to Amazon.com and got the whole book. His perspective is a different view on the subject of slavery, which is interesting and provocative, but it’s more the language itself that drew me in. I mean, listen to his opening paragraph:

"It began at the edge of our homeland, where the verdant forests and tropical bush gave way gradually to the sandy stretches of the Guinea coast. It began at the mouths of the rivers, from that northern point where the Senegal and the Gambia pour their troubled streams into the waters around Cape Verde, down the thousands of miles of coastline to the place where the mighty river Congo breaks out into the ocean. On these shores near the mouths of these rivers, we first saw the ships."

Doesn’t that engage you? So with some texts, it’s often the language that draws me in, and the thinking happens after the words have settled.

Other pieces are so obviously biased or poorly substantiated, they force you to talk back to the author immediately. I remember one book I was reading that made such a wild conjecture pertaining to the source text that I threw the book across the room. I was angry. I never did finish the book either. It obviously was not for a class.

I listen to talk radio a lot while in the car. I want to think that I am listening critically, but the pace does not allow for a completed thought before you are on to the next point. The bombardment of sound—the bits and pieces that make talk radio addicting, stifle contemplation because you are on to the next caller, the next point before the information is completely digested. I also hate how the host is so in control that he or she doesn’t allow the callers to present their whole argument. The host only gleans enough to keep the pony show going, incite or inspire the audience, and sell ad space. Yet I listen.

Other informative radio, like NPR, moves at a slower pace and invites more thought. I often disagree with the commentary. And if I need to put my two cents in, whether for or against, I can email them with my comment and actually get a human being to respond. And I feel no guilt at not contributing to their pledge drive. Well, maybe just a little.

So I guess the medium, the environment, the language, my own constitution or momentary mood all determine the extent to which I, at any given time, am able to scratch beneath the surface of what I read and hear. What I hope to do in this class is continue to develop skills in hearing other voices and, whether agreeing or disagreeing, stretch and expand my perspective of the world. I hope to sharpen my analytical skills so that I can catch more quickly the cues an individual might throw out there that show where their ideological feet are planted.