Being Noble


This is a difficult topic.

I was surprised when the folks at Make It Missoula asked me to blog on this topic. In fact, since I made the podcast on this topic, I’ve been surprised by the large amount of positive feedback I’ve received on this.

This is about people. And getting along. And making the best of … people challenges. And a few different things that are each called “community“.

And a lot of the feedback I’ve had is that this perspective is different. And, apparently, helpful. Well, I thought I was just weird. But now that people have said it was helpful – I’m glad to have been of some help.

I manage some rather large online communities, so I’ve not only been involved in thousands of challenging discussions, but I seem to have a recipe for successfully growing very large communities.

And, in an unrelated (yet related) space, I have participated in a lot of experiments in “intentional community” (several adults choosing to live under the same roof, or share the same table on a daily basis). How people get along, or don’t, is a massive topic. And a lot of my philosophies in this space are different from the norm.

In the podcast, I start off relating a story about a woman that wrote a weekly column for the daily paper in Portland, Oregon. The column was about her attempts to become greener. One of her earliest columns was about how she went out and bought a bunch of fluorescent light bulbs. A year later, she wrote a column about how she learned that fluorescent light bulbs are an example of “green washing” and turn out to be not very green at all.

I find this to be a pretty common path. When folks get started on the eco path, they buy in to the fluorescent light bulb thing. After all, it says “eco” right on the package. And they have heard about how good it is from many sources. And then when people get a lot further down the eco path, about 1 in 100 decide that fluorescent light bulbs are awful, and then they eliminate all fluorescent light bulbs from their house.

The noteworthy thing about the columnist is that she received a mountain of ugly, hostile hate mail including death threats. The message was that these people felt that in the name of “green and eco” that advocating anything other than fluorescent light bulbs is unacceptable.

So while the “green and eco” group is usually known for peace, love, flowers, rainbows, and hugs, it seems there are at least a few that are painfully hostile. The columnist feared for the well-being of herself and her family, so she quit the column.

To attempt to convey all of what I think in this space, it would easily fill ten books. And then to respond to all of the criticisms of those ten books, would take a thousand books. This is a big space. People come in many flavors. Each person comes with a huge bucket of psychology. And sometimes what is in that bucket smells mighty crazy.

It is my experience that most people believe that 95% of the population is good and 5% is icky. My philosophy is exactly the same and completely different: 5% of the population is noble, and 95% of the population is human.

Another way of looking at it: Everybody looks cool when the situation is consistantly smooth. When things become horribly awkward, we then see 5% stand up and work hard on getting things to be smooth again, while 95% …. uh …. do something else.

The reason I made the podcast is that a friend called me. He was upset. He recently signed up for the “Christian package” and was basking in the glow of what that was bringing him. He called because he just finished yelling at an icky person and was feeling a bit like he should be past that.

I know almost nothing about theology. And my feelings in this space are … large and complicated. An attempt at an accurate response would not only take years, but I would probably change my mind on how I want to go about it a thousand times. And then whatever I said is probably wrong.

So, I figured I had about 15 minutes to make the best of it. So I tried. And in doing so, I brought together pieces from: Something I learned from a 20-year-old aspiring Buddhist; a mental tool I use in talking about levels of eco-ness; all of my past experience in being a mediator for all sorts of wackiness; and massaging it all into something that might fit for somebody that desperately wants the message to be framed as something Christian.

I made a blundering attempt. It seemed to help. And somehow I felt compelled to push it into a podcast, even though most of my podcasts are about horticulture, eco-building, alternative energy, and stuff like that. And … people seemed to like it. A lot. Weird.

I know that this is probably the world’s lamest blog post. It is riddled with hints and things and horribly lacking in solid stuff. Every time I try to write something going into more detail, it’s as if it needs far more detail to make sense. And then I’m well on my way to the ten volume set – which would go unread in a blog. So I delete a bunch and try to come up with a summary. For every sentence that now appears in this blog, a dozen sentences were deleted. But I guess this is kinda the way psychology, theology, and all of humanity is: Really too big to squeeze into a blog post. And I just don’t have the skills to make a good summary.

So, finally, here is the podcast called “being noble“. I tried to listen to it, but …. I’m reminded that I’m mystified as to why anyone would want to listen to any of my podcasts.

(Featured image of Noble statue – by horiavarlan)


BIO: Paul Wheaton is is the tyrannical ruler of two on-line communities. One is about permaculture and one is about software engineering. There is even one for Missoula. Paul has written several permaculture articles starting with one on lawn care that he presented at the MUD Project 17 years ago, including articles on raising chickenscast iron and diatomaceous earth. Paul also regularly uploadspermaculture videos and permaculture podcasts. In his spare time, Paul has plans for world domination and is currently shopping for a hollowed out volcano in the Missoula area, with good submarine access.

See all of Paul’s contributions to MakeitMissoula on this Blog Homepage here.