October 25, 2017

∴ How to Engage a Fanatic

David Brooks, who advocates engaging fanatics with love – The New York Times:

Second, you greet a fanatic with compassionate listening as a way to offer an unearned gift to the fanatic himself. These days, most fanatics are not Nietzschean supermen. They are lonely and sad, their fanaticism emerging from wounded pride, a feeling of not being seen.

If you make these people feel heard, maybe in some small way you’ll address the emotional bile that is at the root of their political posture.

Another option is simply letting the fanatic vent, unanswered. If it occurs on a medium like Twitter, re-tweet or re-post. Let his words speak for him. It’s a minimalist form of listening, and everyone gets him unfiltered and uncensored.

One of two outcomes obtains. Either the fanatic self-censors after publicly embarrassing himself, or he heedlessly stumbles ahead, a caricature of thoughtful discussion. Either way nothing remains to engage; there’s no reasoning with a fanatic, because the fanatic elides uncomfortable historical fact and ignores contemporary explication, while championing what gives him comfort.

Above all, the fanatic does not tolerate change.

Life can be seen as a series of choices, each engendering change in one way or another. Thoughtful choice occasionally leads down unexpected paths. This is the act of living rather than mere existence, self-determination rather than approximating the steel ball in a pinball machine. Where these paths lead is one of life’s joys; they help define us even as they require us to change.

The fanatic, then, is angry at life. Old man, meet cloud.

#fanatics #David #Brooks

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