We begin so many conversations from the end; from our conclusions. I find this to be unhelpful both when we agree and when we disagree. When we agree we assume the journey that was travelled was either the same or very similar…this, of course, allows us to swim in very shallow waters. The second problem with this is that the underlying fundamental belief that brought us (or, at the least, was our foundation) to our conclusion(s) may be diametrically opposed and therefore our conclusions are incompatible with each other!
What, then, with ones we are in disagreement? The inherent danger is that to argue backwards from differing conclusions is that it is nearly impossible to make an argument (convincingly) from a premise that the other sees as fundamentally flawed.
So, then, where do we begin? I would argue that we must begin at the last place that we found mutual footing (keeping in mind the problem with agreeing from above), this becomes our common ground that we can at any moment return in order to reorient or return to civility.
Today, we are inundated with memes, sloganeering, and bumper stickers that contain polemic conclusions and no effort to help bring about understanding and mutual appreciation for the other’s view, intellect, and lifelong experience. The danger of anonymity today also plays into this..we are able to lay in wait, unseen in the fringes of the internet’s forest – sniper rifle raised just waiting to fire upon those whom you oppose. No chance for them to confront their assailant.
I recently came across a statement that we must be reminded that even though we do the vast majority of communicating with others through machines, gadgets, and objects –> we truly are interacting with subjects! (See Martin Buber’s I and Thou for a great treatise on the importance of others as subjects!)
The great tragedy of our day is that we have so many ways to communicate with each other…we’ve lost the appreciation of that time. Flippancy and shortness rule the day…gone are the days of handwritten notes and other thoughtful discourse. Text messages, tweets, Facebook status updates – these are the things that line our shallow shores.
So let’s start from the beginning – let’s start from a place of mutual adoration and appreciation for the other’s views. Respecting one another and treating them as humans and not objects to be discarded. Maybe then we’ll get some place a bit deeper and more meaningful.