Have you ever noticed that people are seldom arguing about what they think they are arguing about? And that means you and I as well.

I was having a political discussion (argument?) with a friend. We disagreed on every issue raised. Finally, I suggested that we step back and try to analyze this whole situation at a deeper level. I suggested that we take two minutes each to describe the kind of country we would like the USA to be, the kind of country of which we would be proud.

I began by saying that my idea of a country of which I could be proud comes from what Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel saw as the heart of the prophetic message. As Heschel put it in the Introduction to his great work on the prophets (it was based on his dissertation at the University of Berlin) God judges a city by how its poorest citizens live. End of story.

My friend said that he wanted to see a country where people who work hard get rewarded and people who don’t work hard don’t. It was immediately clear to me that our argument had been pointless. We were both intelligent beings. All my arguments followed from my starting point. And all of his arguments flowed consistently from his starting point. Any further conversation should be directed to these starting points, not to the conclusions logically drawn from them.

Have you noticed this in your arguments? Try stepping back from the presenting issues and look for what I have often called “what’s going on in what’s going on”. These are the “meta” issues, the underlying assumptions from which our arguments inevitably flow. After Aristotle wrote his study of the observable world (his “Physics”), he wrote about what transcended “Physics”. And he called that book “Metaphysics”, the “after-physics study”.

So I’m going to try to do that from now on. I’m going to try to find the “meta” premise for the multi-layered arguments we build on that always present but frequently unnoticed foundation.

By Ron Miller, April 10, 2011

3 thoughts on “Arguments”

  1. Thank you so much for the wonderful update to this site. Ron is and was a very wonderful spiritual teacher. I am very grateful to be able to read more of his teachings and as in person, be in his presence. Thank you Ron and Jim for the creation of CG. I have enjoyed and benefited from all the teachings for many many years and hope to continue to do so. Please tell Ron’s children, as they already know, how lucky they were to have such a wonderful father and how sorry i am for his passing. With love to all that read this, Dale Reid

  2. The natural state of my heart is to think of preayr as just another thing on that laundry list of things that i must do in order to be righteous. Your post is a blessed reminder that if we are called to pray, then it is indeed something that is the best thing for us, and in fact is not a chore, but a grace and a blessing. Nor is it something that is necessary in order that God may hear our needs, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. (Mt. 6:8) If we are to petition Him at all, i believe that such a process is also a grace to us, that we may be constantly reminded of His sovereignty and our need for His provision.Thanks very much for the post!

Leave a Comment