Agreeing to be disagreeable

Published 10:00 pm Friday, February 27, 2015

By Susan McNabb

Every week I write about how wonderful it is to live in Tryon. It’s a kind of paradise. A moderate climate, natural beauty, friendly people. If you read my columns, you probably picture us all holding hands along Trade St. singing Kumbaya with Southern accents.

But I have to be honest with you. Things aren’t always as they seem. We do have our disagreements. Some people aren’t kind. Some are grumbly. Some are just trouble.

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I haven’t been to a town council meeting yet, but I hear there’s often quite a bit of drama there. And I see some friction among Tryonites on Facebook occasionally, but that’s to be expected I suppose. The internet can bring out the inner troll in some folks, and it’s easier to be prickly online than in person.

In a recent philosophy of architecture class at Upstairs Artspace, however, a discussion regressed into “near fisticuffs” among the class members. I can’t even imagine really what that must have been like, but of course, I’m thrilled that the word fisticuffs was brought out and dusted off by the student who reported the event to me.

I love that a philosophical debate could become so lively, and try as I might, I can’t picture what the argument could have been about. “Corinthian columns are the prettiest.” “You’re a liar! Doric are the best!” “That’s it! Let’s step outside!” You can see how it could have escalated so quickly.

Of course, I’m showing my ignorance here. I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t taken any of the philosophy classes at Upstairs, and I have no excuse. They’re taught by Dr. Deborah Fitzgerald who has taught several series of philosophy classes since I’ve lived here: philosophy of religion, art, and now architecture.

She’s a brilliant woman, and has an impressive resume full of fancy colleges where she both studied and taught: Rutgers, Wofford, Furman, to name a few. And like so many people here with fascinating backgrounds, she now calls Tryon her home, and we’re lucky to have her grace us with her expertise.

My husband has been a devoted student of Deborah’s as have many of my friends, and I love that the classes are offered here in this small town—that people are so eager to learn new things, and even get so involved in them that heated arguments break out.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen discourse here. I’ve been to enough nonprofit committee meetings and board meetings to see the exchange of snide remarks, dirty looks shot across conference tables, and I’ve even heard of people walking out in a huff! One new idea was recently shot down in a meeting because it wasn’t “the Tryon way.”

Paul and I are still new enough to find ourselves puzzled when we hear about old feuds among people and organizations. Some friends recently tried to explain to us why one group doesn’t mix with another. No one could recall exactly why they had broken apart in the first place, but it had something to do with a covered dish.

But even with all this fighting, I just shake my head and smile. After living in L.A. for so many years, disagreements in philosophy class and committee meetings are a welcome occurrence. This is healthy discourse in my opinion, and a reasonable amount of trouble.

In big cities, people shoot each other for improper lane changes. TV news has to narrow down the murders it highlights because there isn’t enough time to report them all every day. I spent nights at home in L.A. because a curfew was in place due to violence outside my house. Helicopters have awakened me many nights hovering above my neighborhood looking for bad people.

Dirty looks and leaving in huffs are just fine with me. Even an occasional eye roll is no big deal. It’s normal to disagree. It’s fine to argue. If there was no conflict, that would be something to worry about.

So, no we’re not perfect here. We’re just human. Even with our faults, though, Tryon’s a wonderful place to live and work and study philosophy. I can’t wait to hear about the next class on March 4 at Upstairs. In fact, I just might attend to see what all the fuss is about. I’ll be sure to bring my strongest opinions. And some fisticuffs. I think I have a pair in the back of my jewelry drawer. Maybe I’ll see you there.