I am repeatedly reminded (when I can set aside my ego) that I am never too old to learn; never too old to gain in wisdom, never too old too adapt, never too old to change. Over the years I have frequently found myself at odds with those who see the world from a different perspective than do I.
This is never more pronounced than when discussions revolve around politics. Over time I have learned that too often politics leads to polarization, which leads to a herd mentality. People of like minds tend to collect into groups of like minds, which leads to group think, where there is little opposition. This in turn leads to a zealous belief that they have it right, that anyone who stands in opposition is evil or crazy or stupid…or who is just flat out wrong! I admit that when I see far right conservative views, especially when they are promoted in demeaning ways, that I pretty much take the polar opposite view…they are misguided, insensitive, stupid, ignorant…wrong! But then I see some equally demeaning liberal view, which actually forces me to realize that these “in your face” dueling platforms serve no one well.
Throughout history the evidence is overwhelming. People band together to protect themselves. The problem is that rather than make any attempt to understand others of different beliefs or mindsets, generally they seek to destroy one another. This polarized entrenchment has, in all cases, led to war, to genocide, to living lives in turmoil and anger and fear. What we don’t understand we fear, what we fear we try to destroy. Destruction does not always mean we literally destroy or kill, destruction can be in the form of friendships and relationships, it manifests in politics and religion in families in societies in nations. Destruction can occur from within.
In recent years I have become more self-aware. I have also recognized that many of the people I actually like don’t necessarily share my views. This has actually been troubling for me. At one time I would judge them through the lens of my experience and based upon what I believed to be true. I judged them based upon my view of the universe which also meant that I judged them from my political and even my religious and spiritual perspectives. Once I realized, and accepted, that we really need ying and yang, we need opposing views, we need checks and balances if we are to bring out the best in each of us and if we are to create an enduring ever improving nation and world.
Needing each other does not mean always agreeing with each other, however it does mean that we need to keep from isolating ourselves, we need to stay in the game, put ourselves in positions to hear that which we do not want to hear. Retreating into like-minded groups where all we hear is the stuff and the beliefs that make us ever surer that we, and we alone, have it right, weakens us.
Ironically, and although my increasing awareness of this has been a process…it has actually been driven home when I volunteered to chair our class reunion, which drives home another point: lessons are often learned at unusual times, in surprising places, and from unexpected sources. Although I know that I will struggle to accept opposing views, I also know that I must make every effort to not just hear them, but more importantly to understand why someone feels as they do. But I now know that just because another person believes as they do, we can still be friends…and it just might be within that friendship that a better idea blossoms.