Exposition & Confession: Speaking & Writing in Both the Objective & Subjective Voice

One of the benefits of keeping a personal journal or diary for many years is that one is enabled to “overhear” one’s own thoughts and feelings and to learn from them. I’ve noticed that in my own journals I alternate unpredictably between impersonal exposition and personal confession, that is, between the archetypally masculine detached “objective voice” and the archetypally feminine participatory “subjective voice.”

There seems to be both an advantage and disadvantage to speaking and writing in each of these voices:

The advantages of adopting the objective thinking and judging voice is that one can thereby set forth one’s ideas as a set of coherent and consistent principles and observations about life. This is the voice we expect to hear in reading philosophy, history, mathematics and science. It is the language of ideas, theories, observations and discoveries. The disadvantage is that we may try to hide from ourselves, and also from others, our hidden assumptions and biases, our blind spots, our vulnerabilities, limitations, confusing what is only partial truth for total reality.

The advantage of adopting the subjective feeling and perceiving voice is that we allow ourselves to be human, vulnerable, transparent, conditioned, admitting to ourselves and to others the qualified nature and contingency of our insights and observations. The disadvantage is that we may be tempted to “wallow” in and indulge our subjectivity in a way that is unhinged from any attempt to achieve critical distance from what we feel, perceive and simply want to be true.

Fortunately as human beings we are endowed with both an objective and subjective voice, the ability to think with critical detachment and to feel with participatory engagement. It is the dialectical tension and creative balance between these two modes of awareness and expression that round out our humanity. So with my mind I will continue to set forth ideas and principles such as the ones I have recently written on the great ends of education, including the competing agendas of these educational traditions. And with my  heart I will continue to inwardly feel and openly express my own existential needs, hopes, fears and longings in every realm of existence.

When it comes to the subject of education this means seeking to comprehend and expound upon the big picture through detached observation of multiple traditions. It also means revealing what it means to me personally to make connections between each of the educational traditions, and in so doing to live a more fully human, intelligence, effective and creative life. It is my hope that the artful blending of the objective and subjective voices would result in greater wisdom and compassion, awareness and empathy, critical reflection and intimate communion.



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