Thoughts on Taking the Other to Lunch

So often, to succeed in our quest to promote what we see as justice and what’s right, we end up demonizing some other person. Much of our ideology is built upon the concept that someone is right and someone else is wrong. We construct Hitlers and Stalins in our endless quest to prove ourselves right. It’s the only way ideologies can function.

We often call our ideologies “common sense,” which suggests that people who don’t subscribe to them and hold opposing ideologies are “nonsensical.” They are confused, wrong, liars, or even just evil. We set ourselves up against an imaginary “other” who disagrees with us and the ideologies we take for granted.

But doing so is a perversion of who we are as people. Sometimes in our endless quest for justice, even social justice, we forget one of the most critical (but highly invisible) aspects of diversity—diversity of thought. In seeing someone else as an ideology that we disagree with, and nothing more, we invalidate their humanity.

In the words of famed advice columnist Ann Lamont, “Of course we all think our opinions are the right ones. If we didn’t, we’d get new ones.” It’s hard to remember sometimes that we’re all entitled to our opinions. Sometimes, our opinions run completely and unequivocally opposite of each other. In those cases, it’s easier to start shouting, pointing fingers, and even just pack up our toys and go home.

That’s dangerous, though. If we can’t see past each other’s politics and worldview to our experiences and framework, we succeed only in estranging ourselves from each other. It’s objectification to the highest degree.

Over and over again, I’m forcefully reminded of the power of story. I’m convinced that story is among the strongest motivators (I’d suggest needs, even) of the human condition. Refusing to hear someone else’s story strips from them a deep element of their humanity.

In the words of the poet Rumi, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Will you, please, come to that field with me? Can we have a cup of coffee (or tea or hot chocolate or whatever?) and see each other for who we truly are, with experiences, perceptions, and histories that are good, valid, true, and reach beyond what I may see in my surface-level disagreement?

Can I hear your story?

Maybe in doing so, we can build some sense of our world in the commons–the community. Together.

Huh. Common sense. So that’s what that means.