“Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ‘crackpot’ than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.” – Chauncey Depew
It seems that we live in a day and age where speaking your mind and engaging in regular, challenging debate rarely takes place, whether between friends or with acquaintances. Most discussions I have observed between men usually revolve around sports (which can get heated to be sure!) and generalities such as plans for the weekend or their opinion on a movie or TV show. When like-minded individuals get together they can then talk about politics and religion but even that can be rather high level and impersonal. On a few chance occasions I have engaged in a rigorous exchange of ideas with another person, sometimes emboldening each other, other times disagreeing passionately but respectively, and have usually walked away feeling a bond of sorts, like two young men after a fight where each held his own. There is a mutual respect that can be found when we put value into the ideas of others and they ours. It is also important to get used to sharing your beliefs and have them challenged, either directly or through some new ideas presented in response.
This is why Wolf & Iron is starting a weekly series called Fireside Discussion Topics. Each week a new topic will be thrown into the mix to be used as a starting point for you to generate deeper discussions with your friends, co-workers, and family. Real discussions are preferable, not Facebook or forum virtual debates if they can be avoided.
Great conversations take place around the campfire or open hearth. There is something about the drawing effect of heat and the steady glow of embers that opens people up. When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his public radio addresses the listeners of his day nick named them “Fireside Chats” because they were so open and cordial compared to the typical preaching style campaign speeches. I’m not a fan of FDR’s policies, they steer too far towards socialism, but I do appreciate his willingness and ability to openly share with the American people. Regardless, the concept is what I am after here.
We Need to Speak to Each Other
“The heresy of heresies was common sense” – 1984 by George Orwell
Any society that values freedom cannot also be so fragile that we fear exchanging words with each other. There is a prevailing and growing attitude that disagreement with someone is the same thing as judgment and offense towards them. Conversely, agreeing with someone wholeheartedly may paint you as not being open minded. Combine this with our tendency to close ourselves off from our neighbors and only expressing our thoughts to ourselves on the drive home, or living through pundits and comedians, and we find ourselves in a bad place. We are loosing the ability to speak our minds, to debate rationally and not emotionally, and to separate an issue and our belief in it from our own worth so that offense is not taken when someone pokes holes in our logic. And, not the least of which, we are losing the camaraderie found through discourse. This isn’t a political statement. Most people have venting down pat. It’s free and open dialogue and the exchange of ideas in a respectful manner that we are lacking.
How to Use Fireside Discussion Topics
Here is how I envision this working:
The scenario: You and some buddies are out for lunch, or over at a person’s house for the holidays, or maybe you have a regular men’s group.
Open the discussion: “Hey, I read an interesting topic for discussion on Wolf & Iron and I would like to see where you stand\what you think. Insert discussion topic here.”
Now just sit back in silence and see what develops.
Some of the topics will be the of the taboo religious or political nature. Remember this isn’t necessarily to change minds, but a good challenging discussion is always great. You will be able to tell how far to take it and who is willing to converse.
What to Watch Our For
A lot of times we (men) try to keep things light or express our opinions in satirical form. It’s a safety net we lay out before proceeding with the high-wire act of putting our thoughts out there. If we trip up or get thrown off balance we can just laugh if off rather than falling to our demise. After a round or two of jokes try to get things back on the serious track. “But seriously, if you had to take a stance on this where would you come down?” or “I really want to know what you guys think about …” will usually do the trick.
Most of the topics aren’t meant to be controversial, just conversational, so don’t go looking for a fight when the topic is “What is your favorite author?” Also, if you have any topics you would like to contribute please do. You can contact me from the home page or Facebook. Are these conversations for ladies as well? Of course! However, I find that when a couple is present usually the more outspoken one will do the talking. Make sure everyone chimes in. It’s fun when a couple realizes they disagree in front of everyone!
The topics will be under the category Fireside Topics which you can find listed here https://wolfandiron.com/category/fireside-topics/ and they will be released like a regular post so they will show up on Facebook and email. I look forward to hearing from you all on how these conversations are going.