Polonius and the Clouds

Somebody told me recently that I am apt to put things into boxes – that I am too black and white. I was shocked by this. Really quite upset. And apart from the usual defensive reaction to a criticism, my shock was deeper. Boxes are things I am very aware of. Boxes are not things I aspire to or care for. Putting people or ideas into boxes is something that I try hard not to do.

Ironically I now feel boxed – boxed by a criticism which I am desperately trying to find the basis for. I search through past comments and exchanges and try to pinpoint the thing that was boxy. I feel I must prune my future observations. I feel scared of who I am.

And then I wrote yesterday’s entry and have spent today wondering about it.

Is having an opinion putting something in a box? Must one refrain from having an opinion? In fact, most of my life, I have felt as wavery as Polonius. If Hamlet tells me a cloud is shaped thus, I will find that shape. But then if Yorrick (yes, even a lifeless skull) should tell me something different, I would be sure to be able to see that too. That is why I am so poor at debate. A new argument thrown in my path seems instantly so understandable that I bow to it. It is only after significant reflection that I can resurrect my own thoughts around it and find a hole in it. Unfortunately most conversations don’t allow time for that kind of reflection. I am slow and unwieldy.

But I hold that I am as entitled to an opinion as another person. And I hold that opinions, like trees, grow in the shapes formed by the weather and conditions around them. A tree though, were it to suddenly be transplanted, would accommodate its shape newly to the changed conditions. And while the history of it may remain permanently in the structure, one cannot argue away the adaptability proved by surviving in that new position. I hope, that like the tree, I can adapt and change. If, referring to yesterday’s entry, somebody can prove to me that learning technique before musicology is by far a better course, I hope that I will see the grounds of their argument and be willing to listen. But under the winds and extremes of my current experience, I hold that it is okay to express my opinion, that learning technique first feels a little like practising horse riding by sitting astride a chair. While there may be similarities in position and while one may feel how it is to have ones heels down, back straight, and one’s hands relaxed in front of one, it does not offer the same challenges of balance and changes-of-pace as the back of a living animal inevitably will. And until one feels those challenges, I posit that it is difficult to prepare for them in any real way.

I suppose, in opposition to my ideas, there is the story of The Karate Kid. I don’t remember it well but I do seem to remember that Mr Miyagi had the kid polishing a lot of cars. Apparently, in that instance (and was it fictional or real?), such technique supplements proved most useful. Perhaps I will stand to be corrected.

It is true that one can sally forth into opinions held on slim grounds and discover that one’s companion knows a great deal more than oneself. That can be embarrassing. But it is innocent, at least, and as long as one is happy to listen to the greater knowledge, I hope it is not irretrievable.

But alas, I still can’t quite figure out if opinion is evidence of a black and white world view. And is it true that stating an opinion to open a discussion is a dangerous move in case one is perceived as being closed to other opinions? Perhaps questions are safer than opinions. But in posing questions, one is hoping the other person will supply their opinion which seems a little treacherous in the circumstance. šŸ™‚

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