Friday, June 15, 2007

Training for the Last Transition

Recently I have come to the conclusion that I must stop frequenting the USCF Issues forum. There is nothing wrong per se with reading the discussions and occasionally (or in my case, often) jumping in. It's just that visiting the forum instead of putting my kids to bed or spending time with my wife or completing my work for the day is not a good thing. And forum participation has been supplanting the more important things far too often.

I have asked the forum administrator to revoke my access at his earliest convenience after midnight tonight. Telling him to do that has made me feel a bit like a hospice patient who has just asked the doctor to stop heroic measures so he can pass on from this life. There are so many interesting things going on in this world I've been in, and I'm not going to be able to learn about them or participate in them any more! I will be cut off from so many friends! I will lose work I've enjoyed doing! What's going to happen to me now?

When I think about my situation, though, I realize that the old is about to give way to something better. I very much look forward to taking more walks with Linda, to putting my kids to bed earlier, to wrapping up my work earlier. I might even blog more about life and religion, not just chess. It's a good change.

So this act of leaving an old world and entering a new one has been a kind of training for that last transition--when I'll be leaving this old world behind and heading on to my destiny with the elect, in God's presence.

Here's what I wrote in my farewell post to the USCF Issues forum:

"For the past week or so I've been trying to cut back on my time spent in the USCF Issues forum because I have other things in my life that should be getting more priority. Exercise. Relaxed dinners with my family. Helping Mike Nolan with USCF programming issues (to the extent that my contribution might help him). But like a moth drawn to a flame, or an alcoholic to a bottle, I just can't stay away. The only way I can see to deal with this is to ask Mike to revoke my access to this forum. Mike, please do so at your earliest convenience after midnight Friday evening (the interlude will allow me to go through my inbox and retain PMs from friends that I wish to keep).

"I initially considered just quietly walking off, but I didn't want anyone to speculate as to my motives.

"I want everyone to know that I have valued our interactions, even when we have disagreed. I have concluded that, basically, everyone who is participating in the forum has the best interest of the USCF in mind. As a result, we should view ourselves, and each other, as a community of USCF members who care about the well-being of our organization, and are interested in talking about it.

"Maintaining this perspective, however, can sometimes be difficult when participants use terms like 'Polgar supporters' and 'Polgar haters' or 'Polgaristas' or 'Sloan supporters' or 'Sloan haters,' and so on. This type of language implicitly divides our community into 2 groups:

* the reasonable and well-informed people who agree with me, and
* some other group of misguided souls who are not keeping the best interest of the organization in mind.

"If we allow ourselves to indulge in this kind of language, we are losing the battle to make ourselves a community of participants who can collaborate for good. Instead, we are selfishly turning the discussion into a battle to see who can win an argument. I cannot say that I have always and everywhere avoided this temptation, but I can say that I have tried very hard to avoid it.

"So suggestion #1 is:

"Do not use language (like "Polgar supporters" or "Polgar haters") that divides us into warring camps. Instead, use language that simply addresses the particular issue (and if necessary, individuals) at hand.

"I have also noticed that we often want to resume battles that we might have previously had with a fellow participant, should he or she disagree with us on another issue. "You always say XYZ" or "You're consistently rude" or "Joe Schmo keeps saying dumb things" are not constructive statements; they are invitations to combat. Such statements alienate us from one another.

"So suggestion #2 is:

"Don't deal with yesterday's faults today. Don't try to drag a previous conflict into today's discussion. Restrict yourself to the current issue. If you must address a continuing lack of manners or some other interpersonal conflict with someone, take the discussion offline by exchanging emails or PMs.

"Finally, I have been especially impressed by the genuine humility that Steve Owens and Harry Payne have demonstrated by openly apologizing for momentarily straying across the line of civility. They are setting an example for all of us. In addition, it is no sin to advance a viewpoint, and then to revise it based on the feedback and perspectives of others. If we are only trying to start and win arguments, then we have transformed ourselves from a community that cares about the USCF into a debating society.

"So my final suggestion is:

"Show some humility. If you momentarily lose your composure in the heat of argument, move toward reconciliation by apologizing. Value the perspectives of others, and acknowledge any contributions that influence your opinion.

"I hope that my circumstances might some day change so that I may rejoin this most interesting community. Until then, I wish you all Godspeed and great fruitfulness in your continuing endeavors."

1 comment:

guppy said...

Congratulations, you're proof that some of us can moderate/discipline/cure ourselves--break our own bad habits without someone else's intervention.

That said, I have a few ideas how to brighten up the USCF forum:

-- Separate/break the personal issues into an different topic groups away from USCF issues. I think nolan and the other moderators are trying to do just that.

-- Limit the 'back-and-forth' arguments to point-counterpoint-1 rebuttal & summary-1 rebuttal & summary in a thread until new evidence is inserted the thread. If posters know without question that they have a 2-post limit and that they must follow the other posting guidelines (repetition, argumentation, etc.), maybe they will playing the one-upmanship, whoever gets the last word in wins, discussion game.

Enjoy your free time and thanks for all your hard work.