I had this little brainstorm, which will probably scare you a bit. Regardless, in this brainstorm, it came to me that when people communicate with others, especially in writing, they wear one of three filters: intellect, spirit, or heart.
A person whose filter is intellect loves debate and any form of mental manipulation. They prefer the covert over the overt because there is more interest in subtle topics and verbal challenges. They may reference writings or articles, but that’s not a hallmark of the intellect as much as the tone of the discourse. If one were to describe a person wearing an intellect filter, one would use words such as reasoned, calm, intellectual, open, and logical.
I want to emphasis the use of ‘open’ in the last paragraph because it is here that I think the intellect most differs from the person whose filter is spirit. Spirit in this sense has nothing to do with religion as much as it does with authority. The person who reads and writes through a spiritual filter measures everything against authority, and tends to speak in such a manner as to close doors rather than opening them. Their writing, and most other forms of verbal communication is definitive rather than debative.
The spirit filtered person’s words can generate much discussion but a great deal of this can focus on the person’s authoritative manner as much as on what the person had to say. Regardless of the topic, they tend to dominate it and they can be inflexible once they’ve made up their mind.
Diametrically opposite to the spiritual filter is the filter of the heart. I say ‘opposite’ because those who read or write through the heart filter tend to be the most empathetic, and somewhat due to this, the most indecisive. They are also most often drawn to words that invoke imagery and are highly attuned to their senses. Unlike spirit and intellect, they are more inward facing and tend to write more from their own experiences rather than in response to others’.
Intellect: I think.
Spirit: I believe.
Heart: I feel.
It’s no surprise that I consider myself a heart filtered person. I’m more likely to write about or be drawn to works reflecting emotion or the senses, rather than the mind or an external authority.
When I write, I see an emotional pattern in a story and emotions become my pallete with which to paint. For instance, the story of The End of War + 1 is painted with a dark palette of despair, with overtones of fear, defeat, and hopelessness. Though the tones are dark, they’re also muted, deliberately separating out any sense of an individual except for one brief moment with the curator. This adds a slight flicker of color, just enough to connect, not enough to overwhelm. The story was painted not to generate discussion but to generate a sense of discomfort; a jarring note among all the bloodless, placid intellectualizations about the war and the effect on the Iraqi people.
Writing emotionally and communicating through a heart filter are not the same thing. Continuing my color metaphor, some of the most profound heart filtered works I’ve read have used colors so subtle as to seem to be shades of white, but whose impact on the reader is an explosion within of color that burns with hot reds and golds, or freezes with blistering blues.
Haven’t you read something that makes you feel as if you’ve been cast adrift in the middle of the ocean and there’s nothing around you but that deep sea green? You look down into the water beneath you and you can’t see anything; but you know there’s strange unknown life there, and a bottom that’s so far away as to not exist. This is what I call the “fathomless green”, and works of writing of this nature change you. Forever.
Conversely, I’ve read things that are positively dripping with emotion, oozing purple and tomato red and lime green, but are incredibly manipulative – not as a way of instilling within the person the subtleties of the emotion, but as a way of achieving an end. This is an admirable use of the intellect filter, which believes in using whatever tool to get the job done. Not from deviousness, but from the joy of stretching the mind, testing it, building it up.
People don’t have to be completely one filter all the time. A person can have an intellect filter, but overlay it with one from the heart and write passionate arguments that invoke emotion; however, the emotions tend to be more external than internal, and thus safer and more controlled. Controlled is the key term here. The purer the heart filter, the more simple and primal are the emotions.
A person who normally writes and reads through a spiritual filter can begin an intellectual discourse, but it tends to be on subjects that are safely distant from the person’s own core of beliefs. The closer the subject is to the person’s authoritative center, the less likely they are to be open to debate, or to debate in such a way as to easily leave open doors.
The person who works through a heart filter can become involved in intellectual debates, but is easily discouraged or even dissuaded at the give and take, the sharp wit and edges that can occur in these debates. In particular, they would never indulge in mental gymnastics, role playing, or mental games – these would leave them feeling uncomfortable, and they would react accordingly; this would most likely irritate those with an intellect filter or spirit filter.
The person with the intellect filter won’t join in the conversation amongst heart filter people – they would find the conversation to be too exposed, too vulnerable, and of little challenge. The concepts would be too far from the head, to close to the heart. Their strengths lie in the mind and senses, or emotions, play only secondary interest for them. Again, not because they are emotionless, but because the mind is their comfort zone.
Sometimes the differences between the three can become so disparate as to leave a person feeling as if they lack something, when in effect what’s happening is they’re a person wearing one filter trying to converse with others all wearing a different filter. In this situation, the best course is for the person to remember that the world takes all kinds, and perhaps they should leave. We don’t all have to join every conversation. Sometimes sitting alone quietly in the corner is the best course.
Other times, though, you may have to, or choose to, work through the communication disconnect when you’re a filter wearer of one kind surrounded by others. The spirit filtered person learns to level out a bit when surrounded by intellect or heart filters or they know they’ll chase people away.
Intellects learn the value of passionate argument, and hearts learn the strengths of reason.
I’ve worked through two forms of filter-based disconnect from two different directions this last year – one associated with my RDF work, and one associated with some of the people I know through weblogging.
The RDF people have been strongly intellect or spirit filtered, rarely heart. This doesn’t mean they’re not emotional or unfeeling, but this does mean that much of their discussion can reflect their sheer love of debate; making it a bit difficult for a heart person such as myself, who wants to zero in on the core of the issue, to find something to grab hold of. I am intimidated, and sometimes irritated. I may then break in, which is incorrect behavior because I’m then forcing my filter type on others. As for spirit filtered, it’s not surprising that many of the RDF Core Working Group members have this – it would seem to me to be a trait necessary for anyone being on a standards committee. Unfortunately, too much authority and I find myself backing out and backing down, sometimes when I shouldn’t.
That’s not to say that people with an intellect filter are the most intellectual – the person who was brought in to define and document the model theory underlying RDF – the semantics – is an incredibly scary smart person, but I found him very approachable. Why? Because of the way that he’ll test new means of communication with me to see if we can establish a common frame of reference, a very empathetic action. And empathy tends to be heart filtered.
Another RDFer person who I have felt comfortable with is a blogger whose name I won’t mention because I don’t want to mention anyone but myself with this little bit-bucketing process of mine. I sense within him a filter of heart, again because of his empathy, though this doesn’t lessen his intellectual arguments, or his authoritative assertions.
In weblogging, I find myself drawn occasionally into a discussion that’s almost purely intellect filtered, or dominated by one or two spirit filtered, and I’m not going to come away better for having participated. Usually. However, sometimes I participate anyway because I’m not always purely heart – I let my bossy nature dominate at times, or try running the creaky wheels of my mind around the block to keep it in moving condition.
However, it doesn’t take much for me to begin feeling out of place, even inferior, and these feelings are signs that I need to re-focus my energy on my strengths, rather than expend it in arenas that just don’t work for me. This is the most important lesson I’ve learned, and I’m still learning it. Self-doubt is your mind’s way of telling you to change your environment.
This is all so hard to explain. I need someone with an intellect filter to organize it, and a spirit filter to sell it. Me, I’m just a person holding a paint brush, wondering what to paint next.