Monday, 3 March 2014

Day 53: Best debate ever

What went well? 

  1. Had our debate in intro Buddhism about what should happen to the pirate who raped a 12 year old girl who then killed herself. We were encouraged to interrupt and insult each other. Lol. I was in the "judge" group and we came up with a fourfold ruling consisting of (a) 10 years of monkhood for rehabilitation, (b) 5 years of community service after that for reparation, (c) public exposure via an international news interview for deterrence (by showing the painful effects of acting harmfully towards others - guilt, etc.), and (d) seven steps of reconciliation with the girl's mother, again to facilitate empathy and closure, and to reduce suffering. Our idea was to reduce suffering rather than to increase it, and to be guided by the principle of upekkha (equanimity/indifference) - to be compassionate towards everyone without distinction. Also, the idea that the pirate would reap his karmic consequences in time anyway. Anyhow, it was a great debate. Super lively, super emotional/dramatic, and I was super impressed by how well prepared each group was and how willing everyone was to engage in the debate. The winner was chosen by a vote (you couldn't vote for yourself) and we came in at a tie for second (one vote from first!!!). The point of the debate wasn't to discover the "right answer", but to recognise complexity & interconnectedness. Reflecting the nature of this experiential learning, the professor said in an email: "I run these chaotic debates for several reasons:

    1. The process of debating doesn't lead to answers, in fact, it reveals samsara in action.
    2. Debating creates selves. It is easy for us to say, "oh, I am compassionate," "I respect all views, religions, etc.: However, in a competition or in a debate with consequences, with serious issues, we often revert to "selves" and see the "others" as enemies. You might have even felt this physically. I wanted you to be frustrated. The point wasn't winning, it was experiencing the suffering of self-formation. This works the best when you first have to create an imaginary self (your character). 
    3. Buddhist sutras work this way -- a problem is established and then many different characters, many different view points, many different scenarios are presented and the complexity of every problem is seen. This builds awareness of multiple points of view and lessens attachment, hopefully, to any one, including your own."
      • The professor furiously jotting down the (increasingly repetitive) arguments.
        The TA made a wordcloud (frequency of words used) of our debate!!!! So awesome.
  2. Got a lot of study done for my intro Buddhism mid-term, and am feeling good about where I am at the moment with that.

What did I learn? 
  • Perception and beliefs have an insidious influence, and I am starting to realise that with my singing. I've never considered myself to have a "big" voice (well, objectively, I actually don't), but by thinking of myself as a "light lyric" soprano, or as having a "young voice" (also true), I think these ideas have made me somewhat hesitant to explore and stretch the full potential of my voice. I need to have the courage to be little bit risky and willing to take a chance, to pull out what I can so that I actually have something to work with. This was the key insight I got from my singing lesson today, and it was a valuable insight into my psychology as it relates to singing. Time for experimentation!
  • There's a gender difference in depression of about a 2:1 female:male ratio, and this is fairly consistent globally. In countries with greater gender equity, the levels of depression are lower, but the ratio is even closer to 2:1 - perhaps better social conditions allow a "true" ratio to emerge. Suggests that there may be a strong biological component after all (though the details are still unknown). Really thought-provoking, since I've generally been skeptical about biological arguments about "hard-wired sex differences" since these are often used as arguments to reinforce situations of gender inequality (check out Dr Cordelia Fine's writings on this matter).

Miscellaneous thoughts 
  • It's occurred to me that one thing that's somewhat quaint/archaic here at Penn is that most of the classrooms that I've seen so far are equipped with blackboards, rather than whiteboards!
  • Kinda a novelty to write on though!

No comments:

Post a Comment