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Agreeing To Disagree: Blood, Sweat and Shit

Anal beads

I love this picture, but apparently not everyone does.

Like any typical Sunday, you’re discussing anal beads with your lover during the drive home from church.  Your lover thinks the beads are nasty while you get incredibly turned on.  You discuss rimming, lube, g-spots, and prostate massages.  You try to slip one in after another — good arguments, that is.  In the end, you both agree to disagree.  We’ve all been there before — that is, agreeing to disagree, not the anal beads — and while it’s a peaceful way to pause a discussion, it doesn’t resolve anything.

The Other Meaning

“Agreeing to disagree” usually means, “let’s agree that we disagree”.  But I disagree.  Most of the time, we aren’t actually disagreeing on anything, and to explain, let’s look at another interpretation of “agreeing to disagree”.  It could mean, “let’s agree in order to disagree”.  If you think about it, how can you disagree on something when you don’t first agree on what you are talking about?  You’re simply talking about different things.  Therefore, and this is important, so I’m going to blockquote it:

Agreement is a prerequisite to disagreement.

Take the anal beads for example.  Maybe the image your lover has of anal beads is shit being squeezed out with each inserted bead.  Then when you yank the chain out, tearing your rectum,  blood, sweat and shit get splattered all over the wall.  In the meantime, your image is of slow, intense prostate/g-spot stimulation and full body orgasms.

Don’t Poo Poo My Case

We can find a more serious example of non-disagreement from the following video of an Ugandan anti-homosexual pastor.  (You can see the original here.)

There is no way any gay person would describe homosexuality that way.  Our fellow pastor and the homosexual community are not actually disagreeing about the morality of homosexuality — they can’t disagree about the morality of homosexuality until they first agree on what homosexuality is.  I don’t just mean the physical details of how homosexual sex works, but the surroundings as well: culture, social pressures, pride, diversity, history, biology.

The Law of Leaky Abstractions

We disagree about many things, but most of the time I find that it’s more of a misunderstanding than a disagreement.  We tend to misunderstand each other a lot especially when it comes to the more abstract things like:

  • God
  • Love
  • ethics
  • politics
  • spirituality

Joel’s Law of Leaky Abstractions was originally conceived to address software abstraction, but I think it applies to philosophical abstractions as well.  Whenever we abstract, we look for a simple model that we can understand and inevitably, the details are obscured.  While we mostly agree on the overall meaning of our abstract ideas, we often disagree in the details; does loving a child mean sending them to Harvard or to the School of Hard Knocks?

These topics also tend to be part of our core being, and to me, the passionate misunderstanding is what creates the turmoil we see.

Mundane Non-Disagreements

We also have mundane non-disagreements.  In a “discussion” where my girlfriend expressed that she felt she was more thoughtful of me than I was of her, she brought up as an example that she always turns the door light on for me before I get home, but that I never did it for her.  It’s true, because for me, I didn’t really care if the light was on or not, so I didn’t see it as “something thoughtful”.  Once we cleared that up (along with some other things), we realized that we weren’t actually disagreeing on thoughtfulness.  Now I turn the light on for her while she no longer does it for me.

Don’t Be Offended If I Call You a “MILF”

When we find ourselves in a disagreement, we should remember that other people may feel differently than we do about things as wide ranging as homosexuality to light switches.  They’ve had different experiences which have shaped how they react to certain ideas or words.  I have friends who would jump my bones if I called them a “MILF” and others who would kick my balls into the back of my throat.  Either way, we can’t talk about if I’m being disrespectful until we talk about our attitudes toward MILFs or the term “MILF”.  If somebody says something that seems highly unreasonable, it’s probably because they have a very different perspective.  Rather than jumping in and disagreeing with them right away, let’s try to probe deeper — remember the anal beads — and find out where they are coming from, or else we may end up in the shit covered land of non-disagreement.

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