Today is my 44th birthday.
Hearing the sound of my 4 year old singing Happy Birthday first thing in the morning is one of the blessings I’m happy I’ve lived to receive. There are many others the last few years particularly I’ve been blessed with. Travel. People. Given the circumstances, even survival.
This year I lost my father, although really it was last year because of politics and disagreement. The things that tend to divide people right now are important yet dumb things to be divided about. Common ground is found easily enough when you stop a moment. Most of us want a peaceful life, a warm home, a full belly, and to be surrounded by others important to us. We get lost in the details of how we get there, and how much we acknowledge and ascribe these same concepts to others.
Don’t get me wrong, my views and my politics are still there. I got opinions. Lots of them. I think there is space to have them while acknowledging commonality. That’s the only way we find our way to some sort of harmony.
It’s easy to point fingers at another person or group. “We could live good lives if not for those people over there.” “Why can’t those people stop doing whatever shit they’re doing that is pissing us off?” Barring active harm to others, that’s what most of this squaring off is about, manufactured by others still to further division, discord, or maybe just to get views.
Our world, our media, our platforms and services and ways we share haven’t been working for us. Not in ways that bring us together. I know the irony and even hypocrisy in me writing this, as I’ve had my own part, and carry my own culpability in where we are now.
A few months ago I started trying something different. I stopped the direct confrontation about views. I stopped posting out of anger and frustration. I stopped showing anger or contempt online for whatever my feed or my news sources had been showing me that day.
I started engaging people without judgement of them. In discussions, I started just stating where I stood without frustration with others. I started treating others with a little more space and care for where they are, because another thing we all have in common is we’re all tired and frustrated and angry and sad and confused, and just trying to figure out the best way to get through this life with the people we love.
It doesn’t stop the anger. It doesn’t stop the discord. It doesn’t change the daily messages coming in that the world isn’t going the way we want it to.
Giving people more space does change our conversations. It changes the way we connect with people. It changes the burden we carry of people we alienate or feeling of otherness from saying “things would be fine if not for those people over there”. We don’t have to share opinions to talk about them. We don’t have to be on the same side of the political, economic, social, religious, or ethnic view to get along with each other. We only need to recognize our common humanity, dignity, and needs. That’s universal. We can all still be heard. We can all still be listened to. We can’t expect it to start with our leaders, or the media, or our apps or platforms or employers or anyone else but ourselves, and how we conduct our own lives.
I started. I’ve given it a shot. I’ve still talked about my opinions. I’ve still listened to others who have disagreed. I still get angry and frustrated and upset, but I’m walking away from more conversations feeling better about how they go, and feeling we actually listened to each other a little better than before.
If I had learned this lesson a few months earlier, my father may not have died alone in a hospital room in Philadelphia with us never reconciling. So if I can use this pain, this weight, this thing I’m carrying from that for any good, it’s to encourage any of you or all of you who have read this far to start thinking about how you defy the messages of division from wherever you are, stop saying “but for them” and figure out how you can start changing the conversations around you. Wars have been fought for the worst of reasons. The worst reason is to fight one when ultimately you want the same thing.
It’s hard to change what you’re doing, to look at the same thing one day differently than you did the day before, the week before, or the 43 years before. I’m not asking you to change what you believe, or think, or watch, or identify with… I’m asking you to consider how you move through the world. This wild west of a hyperconnected, brain bending, propaganda laden, fake news, talking heads world that we’re all having trouble navigating.
If you’re struggling with this, if you’re reading this and you’re feeling hesitant, blocked, challenged, or some other kind of way about it, let’s talk. Even if we haven’t in a while. Even if the last time we did it didn’t go so well. Even if I called so-and-so a something or you just can’t see why this is even a thing to begin with. It’s ok. Things change two people at a time.
With peace, balance, and harmony;
This post is public for reshare. Do as you will.