Certainty

  • “Laurel.”
  • “Yanny!”

If you are not familiar with this audio-clip phenomenon, you might not believe that two people can listen to the same sound, yet hear different words. If you’ve not done it, here is a link so you can try it and learn more. Listening to the same clip, some people hear “Laurel” and some people hear “Yanny.”

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/16/upshot/audio-clip-yanny-laurel-debate.html

  • “It’s white and gold.”
  • “Are you kidding? That dress is blue and black!”
A few years back, there was a similar, but visual, phenomenon about a picture of a dress. Some people saw the dress as white and gold. Others were certain it was blue and black.
If you raised your voice about either issue, it was because you were incredulous; you truly could not believe the other person. You inquired and sincerely tried to bend your mind to hear or see what they heard or saw.
No one got disrespectful about these differences in perception.
Those certain that the dress was white and gold – because they saw white and gold – never escalated their disrespect to the level of assault.
Those certain that the word uttered was Yanny – because they heard Yanny with their own ears – did not harass, abuse, harass, or shame the Laurels.
It is hard not to be certain about what you see with your own eyes and hear with your own ears. Certainty means that you are certain. Certainty does not mean that you are right.

Today’s difference

The Struggle Spectrum (John Keltner) posits six terms for a hierarchy of dissent.
  • Mild Difference
  • Disagreement
  • Dispute
  • Campaign
  • Litigation
  • Fight/War
Politics isn’t the color of a dress.
Politics isn’t hearing one name or another.
It’s different.
But why?
  • Donald J. Trump is making this country great again.
  • Donald J. Trump is ruining everything.
  • Blue
  • Red
  • “Laurel.”
  • “Yanny!”
  • Both? How can both be possible in this case?
People see the same events. They hear the same words.
People see different events. They hear different words.
This is what people do.
We must – despite our certainty – stop our hostility.
That might sound scary to you.
That might sound like I am asking you to be complacent.
I am not.
I am asking you to refuse to be hostile.
Gandhi called this type of resistance – standing your ground without adding to the hostility – satyagraha. Marshall Rosenberg taught that there is a difference between a protective and a punitive use of force. I’m asking you to be of utmost caution when you are not acting like MLK, John Lennon, or Mr. Rogers.
Fight for what you believe in. Certainly.
But let’s also enter into inquiry.

Start Here: How can this be?

Let’s ask questions first.
  • How can this be?
  • How can we see and hear such different things?
  • Aren’t they just being willfully malicious?
Let us return swiftly to respect and inquiry!
Let us talk with those who see things differently.
Because yelling, shaming, and fighting – while our righteous anger feels good – don’t help the situation.
Stop unfriending those who disagree with you.
Ponder without blaming
I arrived at the Patriot Prayer Rally at the start of June, as a clergy observer, wearing my purple “clergy witness” vest. But when I felt the venom of Antifa clad in black (with some exceptions) taunting the motorcycle-gang-attired patriots, I did something brave. Super brave.
The purple garment went into my backpack and out came my large white prayer shawl.
Portland’s finest searched my bag as I joined the Patriots.
I asked them questions. “Are you nazis?” “Do you think violence is the answer?” “How do you cultivate patience so you don’t snap at the people right over there taunting you?
After a few minutes, I walked amicably through the police (later, that line of officers was replaced by a solid wall of riot-equipped crowd controller). To Antifa, I asked questions with the same childlike desire to learn and know more. “Do you intend to provoke these people to violence?” “Would you consider yourselves to be communists?” “Can you explain to me the all-black, not-allowing-me-to-see-your-eyes thing?
I asked both sides, as a child might, with genuine curiosity, “How can this form of hatred lead to peace?”
When the Prayer Patriots, huddled together, started talking about how they weren’t going to leave without a fight, I said good-bye by name to Levi, Michael, Quincy, and two others whose names I’ve forgotten. I told the group it wasn’t feeling safe for me anymore. They wished me well. I wished them the same.
As I exited, an Antifa member taunted me, “Hey, I thought you believe in the power of prayer!
I shot back, “I do. But I’m going to do it from a safer distance.”

If you are curious.

I wonder about this as I would beg you to ponder it, as well, with a mind of inquiry, your head cocked your head to the side, your eyebrow raised:
“How can two groups – each amounting to almost exactly 50% of a population – seem – all at once –  to see those who oppose them as warranting harassment, abuse, and shame?”
“How can both of us be right?”
“Am I able to disconnect my outrage from my anger?”
“What can I do to affect connection?”

Darryl Davis

If you have not seen the documentary https://accidentalcourtesy.com, you should. From the website: Musician Daryl Davis has played all over the world with legends like Chuck Berry and Little Richard. In his off hours, Daryl likes to meet and befriend members of the Ku Klux Klan– something few black men can say.

J’accuse

Stop your wicked ways.
Stop spreading hate.
Stop harassing.
Stop abusing.
Stop shaming.
Stop it.
Stop it.

Please.
Yes, you. You.
Can you say that you have not engaged in spreading hatred?
Would you stand with me and commit to lessening your aggressions?
I apologize for any of the memes I have posted that have shamed. I lied to myself when I said that they were just drops in the bucket, meaningless, benign. At some point, I knew better, and, yet, I persisted. I am sorry. I promise, from today forward, I will do my utmost to not assault the character of people with whom I disagree. I will instead engage in inquiry and respect.
When I find myself around a conversation that dehumanizes, I will respectfully ask for respect to be shown. (If it is not, I will lovingly take my leave and promise to follow up lovingly about why I left.)
Would you stand with me and commit to lessening your aggressions?
Please.
  • Inquiry + respect > hate
  • Curiosity > certainty

 

 

 

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