“What kind of people bug you?”

She asked me the question and I answered her without hesitating. It was one of many questions that made up the hour long interview,* and while I talked she scribbled notes, stopping only to fire the next question. I could’ve responded to her prompt by listing qualities such as disorganized, inconsistent, and frequently late, but she’d already heard about my weaknesses so I said the first thing that came to mind.

“People who are dogmatic.”

What I meant by “dogmatic” was not someone who is opinionated, passionate, or sincerely convinced by something. I was referring to the kind of people who are all of those things plus unwilling to consider, or understand, why anyone might not agree with them. I love visiting with people who think differently than I do and I think spirited debates are a wonderful way to enjoy another’s company. When it stops being fun–when it becomes an argument going nowhere–is when I can tell the other person has never thoughtfully challenged his or her suppositions. Because I’m convinced that almost every controversial issue has supporters on both sides who are smart and kind, and that if you listen long enough to an individual from either camp, you might find some small truth worth considering.

This doesn’t mean I only want to hang around with spineless people who can’t make up their minds about anything; I just like hanging out with people who try to figure out why everyone hasn’t come to the same conclusion they have.

Kind of like these two authors…

I read both of them this fall (I’m not quite finished All natural) and admire the curiosity and desire to understand, instead of a must-win-the-argument mentality, of both authors. Keller’s book, The Reason for God, is less even-handed than the other one–he doesn’t spend as much time exploring both sides, but he’s consistently respectful. His tone, in general, is Many thoughtful people think differently than I do and this is why, but here’s what makes sense to me. All natural is written by a skeptic who grew up diaper-less with hippy parents, but who still wonders if it pays to buy organic bananas. If you like either of these books, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t be interested in the other–they’re written in such different arenas–but maybe one of them will make your holiday reading list.

So, there’s the complete answer to her interview question. Now, what kind of people bother you most? It’s something interesting to consider, and can even be inspiring, if you’re on the lookout for people who display the opposite trait…

Oh, and the next time you see me getting riled up in a discussion, feel free to remind me of this post!


*We’ve applied to volunteer with Big Brothers/Big Sisters… hence the thorough interview.

PS. For those of you more interested in the weather than philosophy: Our cold snap is over! The mercury has climbed to new heights… but not before we went ice-fishing on Sunday. We spent the day on the lake (wearing three pairs of pants under our ski-pants) defying the chill, and at one point defying geography, after the kids suggested playing hide and seek. Imagine a 35-mile-long lake covered in ice and snow. Now imagine 5 kids in colourful snowsuits trying to hide.

“Polar Bear”, a game where adults attack small children and send them sprawling to the snow, turned out to be a much better alternative. 🙂

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