“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
There is a disease sweeping through our world like wildfire affecting everything and everyone it touches. It has no smell or taste. You cannot see it. Its symptoms are inflexibility, atrophy, loss of hearing, blindness, loss of intelligence, arrogance, increased aggression and antagonism all leading eventually to death.
The disease has no name but it stems from a misguided belief in one’s own absolute correctness on an issue or subject – controversial or otherwise.
If it did have a name perhaps it would be hubris or a version of it for at it’s core is a very deep and tragic ego that divides up the world into halves and silos and boxes and blacks and whites.
I don’t know if this is simply the human condition or something we can actually change but I hope for the latter.
People hold to beliefs and crowd together with like-minded individuals to declare to the world that on this subject (fill in the blank) there is but one truth and should you believe otherwise you are not only wrong you are stupid and evil.
We no longer discuss anything. We no longer dialogue, We fight and we scratch and we diatribe seeking only to convince others of how wrong they are and how right we are. When they speak in response we do not listen but spend time in our heads formulating the next verbal assault strategy.
There is no humility.
This is not a religion thing, this is not an atheist thing, this is not a pro-this or an anti-that thing…it is a human thing and it is ugly and will be our downfall.
We distrust those with different perspectives. We speak of them behind their backs and assume the worst of them.
We, each of us, have become absolutists. But to be an absolutist one must be absolute and I can absolutely say that we, none of us, are absolute.
It is a leprous condition that is rotting us from the inside out making us ugly…making us afraid of one-another.
I said earlier that we seek out like minded bigots to form senseless tribes with. Over time however this disease makes us realize that some of those in the group are not so like minded as we once thought. So we split and form smaller groups – and the same awareness grows again as we look into the details…and we split and split and split until all that is left is the one.
The disease is destroying one of the core things it means to be human – community…or our communal nature.
The solitary person cannot survive and remain sane…I am not speaking of the introvert or the one who prefers the stillness of their home to the noise of the world…I speak of the one who runs from the world into the wilds and the wastes. The one who fears and distrusts and ultimately hates the world. They become unabombers and poison letter senders.They become mountain dwelling hermits hoping the world dies in flames.
This is where we are all headed should this disease continue to grow in us.
So what is to be done? How are we to be healed.
Humility. Compassion. Empathy. Sympathy. Forgiveness. Unity. Community. Love.
These things unstop deaf ears, silence rambling tongues, soften hardened hearts and allow us to disagree without devaluing our neighbour.
Humility causes us to enter into every conversation on every topic with the foundational belief that “I might be wrong in what I believe and they might be right in what they believe”. Humility recognizes personal limitations and chooses not to hide from them but to live out of them.
Compassion makes us desire to suffer alongside our neighbour. It drives us to recognize a fellow traveler on the planet.
Empathy takes us to seek out the roots of another’s perspective that we might feel it and understand it (not necessarily agree with it).
Sympathy takes us to a place where we comprehend another’s decisions and actions…it seeks to embrace even the most vile.
Forgiveness is our taking off the weight of a wrong another has placed on our shoulders and laying it by the road that we might journey lighter.
Unity reaches across every divide no matter how far that we might hold one-another out of which rises community – the sense that we must move together.
Love is that which ultimately sacrifices our own rights for another’s – our right to be heard, our right to be right, our right to speak. Love is sacrifice that thrives when it is mutual.Love rises out of relationship – love requires relationship – love cannot live in a vacuum.
The opposite of all of this and the end result of the disease is hate. Hate is death.
When we say “I cannot understand how you/they/he/she could do/be/think/say that…this is a failure in us…not the one(s) we direct it at. This is so important I need to say it again – when I do not understand…this is MY failure. I cannot resolve this failure by seeking out others that do not understand…this is like the blind seeking the blind assuming that if they get enough of them together they might finally see…no…the blind will only be able to see through the eyes of others. So it is with understanding.
This is why i do not like silos, parties, lefts, rights, etc. There is only one group of people on this planet and they are humanity…any subdivision of this is artificial and destructive and feeds the disease.
Respectful dialogue is the only way through the mess…there is no other…there is no way to fight through it…to war through it…there is no side to be defeated for there is always another side.
When we realize we know nothing at all…this is when healing can begin. This is where hope lies. After this we can progress to know even less and become fully who we are capable of being.