Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Essay: A new idea is like a new cat in the house

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A new idea is like a new cat in the house

From the book: Chum for Thought: Throwing Ideas into Dangerous Waters by David Satterlee

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A new idea is like a new #cat in the house. People resist change agents
Chum For Thought:
Throwing Ideas into Dangerous Waters

A new idea is like a new cat in the house

I found a relatively new poster at She writes with thoughtful passion about ways that she has had to face and reason about controversial situations. It turns out that I was the first one to “favorite” her and we exchanged several messages. She was distressed by the strong anger that one her articles had provoked and was considering withdrawing from the site. I encouraged her to carry on:

“Dear Kat, People who write like you do are really annoying. This is actually a good thing. Don’t worry about it. Keep it up. Perfect your art. I got a bumper sticker for my wife’s car that said,
"Well behaved women seldom make history." Margaret Mead is quoted as saying, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." As an award-winning elementary school teacher, my wife always kept that quote prominently framed on a wall … at students’ eye level.
“If you read some of my stuff posted at, [some of which is in this book, as well] you will see that I have been wrestling with the questions of why some people are persistently fearful, angry, ignorant, or bigoted. I’ve found many answers in the science of psychosocial development.

“Unfortunately, the answers point to the fact that, in sequential developmental stages, there will just be things that many people can’t understand yet. And, they will dislike you intensely for discussing those things.

“Introducing a new idea is, for them, like bringing a new cat into the house. There is no, hello-how-do-you-do. There is just reflexive hissing, arched backs, and hair on end. But, in time, it (usually) settles down to shared naps in the sunny spot on the floor. If there is hope for cats, there is hope for the public discourse of ideas… and maybe even all of humanity.”