Friday, July 29, 2022

July 29--Better Listening

A journey is a person in itself, no two are alike.  --John Steinbeck

    For my purposes today, I will use the quote like this:
                        A conversation is a person in itself, no two are alike.
    These words come from Richard Rohr's "Daily Meditation" of July 26, offering the wisdom of Sikh activist Valarie Kaur:   
Kaur understands the complicated nature of listening to those we see as our religious, cultural, and political “opponents” and the emotional toll it takes:

It turns out it is extremely difficult to draw close to someone you find absolutely abhorrent. How do we listen to someone when their beliefs are disgusting? Or enraging? Or terrifying? ... An invisible wall forms between us and them, a chasm that seems impossible to cross. We don’t even know why we should try to cross it. ... In these moments, we can choose to remember that the goal of listening is not to feel empathy for our opponents, or validate their ideas, or even change their mind in the moment. Our goal is to understand them. ...

When listening gets hard, I focus on taking the next breath. I pay attention to sensations in my body: heat, clenching, and constriction. I feel the ground beneath my feet. Am I safe? If so, I stay and slow my breath again, quiet my mind, and release the pressure that pushes me to defend my position. I try to wonder about this person’s story and the possible wound in them. I think of an earnest question and try to stay curious long enough to be changed by what I hear. Maybe, just maybe, my opponent will begin to wonder about me in return, ask me questions, and listen to my story. Maybe their views will start to break apart and new horizons will open in the process. . . . Then again, maybe not. It doesn’t matter as long as the primary goal of listening is to deepen my own understanding. Listening does not grant the other side legitimacy. It grants them humanity—and preserves our own.
    I bolded the last two sentences, as a reminder to myself mostly. We are all humans, despite our "us vs. them" culture. 

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