Posted by Susan Shand on January 25, 2013 at 6:20 AM Comments comments (2)


Occasionally in the bazaars, a thread develops into something truly valuable. Something in which debate becomes a generous exchange of perspective and knowledge. Where the majority of the posters are not there to further their career, or to prove their own point as more valid than any other – but to contribute their perspective towards the conversation in order to share it; to engage with and to listen to other perspectives and contemplate them; to add to understanding of the whole so that the whole can be better seen and understood. Something where the progress of the thread does not dissolve into polarised opinion and personality battles – but which moves towards a mutual greater understanding.


Such a conversation can be found here.



Critique is valid. Nothing and no one is above the valid comment of their peers. Differences exist in perspective and there is nothing harmful in exposing those differences to debate. It is exactly in that exposure that people can re-assess their own position by appreciating the position of others. I welcome debate. I welcome opinions diverse from mine. I do not welcome the kind of position which claims it can be the only right view, whichever perspective it emerges from. What this debate teaches us is that there is a way of debate which edifies; which increases both our sum of knowledge, our understanding, and our connectedness to others. Academic critique, the knowledgeable commentary of our peers; is often formative in our own development, it is usefull. It is also a check and balance on the extreme, the abusive, and the self-agrandised. Freedom of the individual to choose is not a basis for lack of rigor in commentary. Personal choice is not a reason not to define boundaries; people need boundaries. Where those boundaries are drawn often relies on perspective; on our own evaluation of the whole. However, as in the old story about the six blind men and the elephant, we often need the input of other perspectives to see the whole picture.



The idea that we should be endlessly positive and never say anything which could ever be taken negatively is nonsense. I do not agree with the idea that we should all be endlessly ‘nice’ to one another. We can be accepting of the poet and their genre and style without being pushed into the phatic acceptance of everything presented; against our genuine judgement and discernment. There is one particular forum in which this kind of ‘support’ has been cloyingly sickly in its effusive reception of each post. Unconditional positive regard is not practiced in the idea that everything a person does is to be supported unconditionally. It is practiced in a positive respect towards the person which goes on treating them with respect, even if we consider their actions to be wrong, unwise or unnacceptable. The truth is that some of the things that people get up to really aren’t Ok. We do them no favours by appearing to support everything without discernment.


At the other end of the scale I don’t think it is helpful to callously reject everything until approval is grudgingly given to a rare example which meets some hidden set of criteria. That, at its worst, is simply toxic and abusive. The habit in some places of re-writing your work for you so that it conforms to the local rules, written or unwritten, is just as bad. Not only does it assume that the revisor is superior to the writer (which may not actually be the case) but more importantly it robs the original writer of the valuable learning experience of revising and re-evaluating their own work.


There is a generosity in giving your perspective, of saying what you see and how you feel about it; even if that is not complementary. Writers cannot always get a measured perspective on their own work without the benefit of the distance which time provides. Unless a writer is going to leave their work for a year or so before presenting it to public gaze, they may be too close to it to see what is obvious to others. For a writer to see their work through other’s eyes is valuable in getting balance on that perspective. Sometimes the simple act of posting something changes the way you see it. A poem which seemed to work well in your own domain may look quite different simply by being presented to public gaze. If you are going to give your perspective, however, it is not good enough to simply say “thats great!” or “thats rubbish!”, you have to be able to say why you think that. You have to be able to defend your opinion with valid reasons of why you think that way, of what it is which forms and informs your opinion.


I am not saying that I think the perspective of any commentator should be privileged over one’s own. In the end we have to make our own decisions, to know our own perspective and to trust our inner sense of what feels right to us, to make up our own minds and to trust ourselves. Following other people’s judgement as though it were somehow better than ours is to subsume our own intrinsic value to that of the superior other. This is never a good thing. Only in revealing our own truths as they genuinely are, is there any hope of real engagement with others.


If we present a constructed perspective, not our genuine one but one which seems to be acceptable, then we deny our own reality. We deny our unique perspective in favour of that of the ‘other’ or of the group in which we want to find acceptance by feigned sameness. What price acceptance if it is built on sham? What use is it to the group if we agree that they are right and we are wrong even in the face of our own experience and discernment but merely to be included? In denying our own reality we rob the group of the value of the whole picture. However, in engaged dialogue with others we may come to appreciate aspects of the whole which we haven’t previously seen or considered, and by doing so, to shift our position.


Only in being truly ourselves can we acheive our own goals and potential. We owe it to the people we care about to offer them our real selves, without artifice or pretense. Anything else is deception and theft.




“All real living is meeting.” – Martin Buber



“Every person born into the world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique….If there had been someone like her in the world, there would have been no need for her to be born.” –Martin Buber as quoted in Narrative Means for Sober Ends, by Jon Diamond, p.78”



(stardate 20130125)



2 thoughts on “Meeting

  1. sara winteridge 08:38 AM on January 25, 2013
    Hi Susan, I’ll read your post fully tonight, but I can’t read the link cos it s a closed group. Which may be the point – I’ll get back to it later 🙂 Eider

  2. Susan Shand 08:29 PM on January 25, 2013
    I’m sorry, that thread has now been removed by the site owner at the request of one of the contributors to the debate and is no longer available to view, sadly.

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