We all seem perpetually frustrated. Easily agitated. Heated water just before the point of boiling.
Do you remember in Ghostbusters (not the first one, but the one with Vigo… the scary dude from the painting)? Yeah, so you remember how there was this river of slime flowing under the city, and Winston tries to give this speech to the mayor about how the slime is what’s causing everyone in the city to be mean and hateful and angry with each other?
Lately it feels like that is real. That there is this river of agitation flowing just beneath the surface of all of us. And we’re all triggering and offending each other in some way. Some in person with our presence, some because of our absence, some because of what we choose to say or share and the tone with which we share it.
I have a lot of thoughts and opinions on a lot of things. Some well-formed, some well-informed, others not so much. And I’d like to be able to talk to you about it, so we could talk through it, and I could learn from you and you could learn from me and we could make each other better. But I have doubt.
I have doubt that the river of agitation won’t bubble up into anger. I have doubt that anger won’t turn into retaliation or alienation or any other sort of -ation. It’s sad but I don’t trust you. And I don’t think you trust me.
As a kid I remember watching the movie The Green Mile. I had read the book first and I knew the ending but still I watched it. And I still balled at the end. I mean literally balled uncontrollably in my parents’ basement. My mom watched it with me. As I sat there sobbing and trying to explain myself between snotty gasps for air, she was concerned. She told me I worry too much about the world. At the time I didn’t like her response, even though I know she was just trying to make me feel better (parents don’t like to see their kids cry regardless of the reason). But I felt deep in my soul that if we didn’t worry, it meant we didn’t care, and if we didn’t care then we wouldn’t try to make the world better. I was worried and I am still worried.
- Worried that we don’t know how to really listen or how to be curious and ask thoughtful questions.
- Worried that we no longer think before we speak, so we’re not teaching kids to do that either.
- Worried that our worry of the above two things stops us from trying to solve problems together and so we accidentally and unintentionally create more problems.
My ask of you and my ask of us, is that we try. Try to listen. Try to be curious. Try to assume the best of the person who says whatever they say, even if you don’t know them at all. Even if you think you know them well. Try to recognize and curb the defensiveness within yourself. Try to be the one who makes it safe for others to share, to disagree, to ask questions, to admit they don’t know. Oh yeah, and admit you don’t know either.
I want to try and open a dialogue. I want to try to write about these things in ways that we can talk about them as if we were caring, curious, thoughtful adults. But that takes more than me and how well I do or don’t write. It takes you, and your willingness to read something (yes in its entirety), and research, and read and think and question and respond. It takes us to listen to other voices and experiences and to take them seriously and considerately.
If you’re game and you promise to try, then I’ll try. Perhaps the worry will subside if I try to articulate the thoughts and the questions. Perhaps the worry will subside when you try in response. Perhaps we can show that disagreement doesn’t have to be disagreeable. That curiosity is healthy. That we don’t know all the things about all the things, and that we still have a lot to learn from each other.
Some things are big and serious and complicated, others are a bit silly and geographically skewed but I still think people might fight me over them:
- abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, casualties of war (perhaps all at the same time is too intense?)
- sacrifice and love and feelings
- Chicago style hotdogs and crinkle cut fries
- materialism and where the line is or isn’t
- Christ vs Christians
- kittens vs cats
- personality tests
- purpose and success
- retirement rules
- drinking and alcoholism
- working and workaholism
- the best season of the year
- going to college and of course college debt
- priorities in words and actions
- good vs bad pride
- cover letters and resumes
- ordering the same thing on the menu
What do you want to talk about, but you don’t because you’re afraid of the water boiling over? What do you talk about even though you know the risk that you might lose friends, family, jobs… because of it? What have you talked about and lost over? Were they right to leave because you were the one not listening, not trying? (sound the hard truth alarm for all of us)
I don’t want to be perpetually agitated… quick to anger, easily set off by poorly timed red lights, political posts, rearranged super market aisles, lack of an apology, a declined invitation, incomplete reporting, the wrong kind of ranch dressing…
I don’t think that I am that way, but maybe you can see me more clearly than I see myself. Maybe I’m not a good judge of me. And you’re not a good judge of you. And maybe that’s why we need to ask more and listen more. And make it easier to share our incompletely formed thoughts with poorly constructed sentences, umms, and lack of substance supporting arguments.
So, the question still stands, what do you want to talk about, listen about, learn about, challenge yourself about? Leave a comment.
Let’s try. Together. The rules are simple.
- Assume you don’t have all the facts. You don’t. Trust me you don’t.
- Your only goal is to seek to understand the other person. Not to win or be right. Not to convince or sway or change opinion. If you seek to understand, and they seek to understand. You both win.
That’s it. That’s how we try.
Inspired by this sermon on 5/26/19 and a barrage of my random travel musings, incomplete journal entries and partial blog posts over the last two years… because as I said I’ve been worried for a long time… and yes I boiled a pot of water simply to take a picture for this post. But I made hard boiled eggs so there’s that. We can add a conversation to the list about what is the best way to make (and spell) deviled eggs.