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January 3rd, 2019
The word point in this sense of a matter being discussed comes from the late 14th Century. As with all words and phrases it’s drifted and morphed into all sorts of expressions:
While you may think you have a point, someone else might say “what’s the point” out of a negative sense of defeat, or they might say “get to the point,” out of frustrated restlessness. Neither seem to indicate that the distance between our perspective and our companion in dialogue is closing, but quite the opposite.
It’s only when we hear someone say “you have a point,” that we move our discussion in the other direction. Such a statement is either overly polite and a person wants to indicate a vaguely positive sentiment without conceding the point, or they have been surprised by an unexpected perspective and their own is somewhat unsettled by this.
It’s only when someone reacts to our ideas by saying they’re ‘on point’, that we know we’re in accord.
Perhaps in this sense it’s more evocative of our common point of view?
Clearly, the number of ways to use this deceptively simple word is large and wide-ranging, making it either very complex, or incredibly simple.
The fractured etymology of this word originally refers to a sharp instrument used to prick a hole in something. A sharp point if you will.
We can imagine an echo chamber getting a hole pricked in it’s conceptual fabric by a better idea. Such a hole in the bubble of our own little world might afford us a view of what’s going on outside our own claustrophobic little mindset. Indeed, it would be a new point of view.
Any new point of view that we seriously entertain is inherently destabilizing. To lend it credibility is to risk usurping credibility from another part of our worldview. Such change requires a comfort with uncertainty that seems to be increasingly in short supply the safer our physical lives become. A risky physical environment makes us attentive because there can be so much more to lose. Such potential violence might prime the mind to stay receptive to new information in order to survive, whereas a coddled mind, having less and less reason to fear any real repercussions becomes stagnant and stubborn.
In such a circumstance we need to sharpen our own tool and challenge our echo chambers from the inside out. Nothing is more powerful than a good question to do this. We can sharpen our questions, by rethinking them into new questions, asking them in more specific or counter-intuitive ways, and in so doing fashion a point with which to poke a hole in our own echo-chamber. A true question is an open-ended concept that creates forward momentum – a forward momentum that takes us out of our comfort zone and challenges us with a new perspective that exists outside our own opinion, seen by means of a new point of view.
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