Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Mirror Is Harder To Hold

Hello everyone!

Well today is a REALLY busy day and I won't have time to write a quality entry, so I've asked my amazing friend Kelley (The Blog) at to write a guest blog entry! She is an amazing friend with great insight and I hope you enjoy reading her stuff as much as I do. :D

I'll be back in blog land tomorrow!


"Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom."

Thomas Jefferson

Today, all over our planet big ideas are being argued and discussed and fought over. Wars are being waged. Elections are being held. Economies are growing and shrinking. Some people have too much, some have too little, some have just enough. That's the business of living, when six and a half billion people share the same home.

Good things are happening. Bad things are happening too.

Good things and bad things.

But it seems to me that lately when I turn on the radio, open a newspaper (yes a real honest-to-god newspaper, made from trees!) or check the news online it's hard to see that. I mean, it's easy to find articles and soundbites claiming all is well or all is ill, but that's just it - well or ill they claim, without much in between. As if we all woke up 12 months ago, or 18, or 3 years, or 9 and all the space between every extreme had disappeared. As if all that's left is me versus you, with nowhere for us to meet in the middle. Am I the only one that feels this way?

Nowhere does this polarization seem more obvious to me at this moment than in our American political and social discourse.

Are we heroes or villains? Traitors or patriots? Successes or failures? Humanitarians? Despots? Frauds? Honest people? Liars? Is America beautiful or ugly? Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?

Clarence Skinner wrote, "The line which separates Good from Evil runs not between men, but through them." Paraphrased, "The line that separates good and evil does not run between groups of people, but through every human heart."

I believe that Clarence Skinner had it right.

I also believe that sometimes I don't want him to be right.

I want a quick fix and an easy solution. I want a scapegoat, a simplification and an excuse. I want an ally and an enemy, with no complex shades of gray between.

I even want those things right now to explain away the kind of polarization that thrives on just such inclinations.

That makes me part of the problem.

And it is a problem, because when I let the discourse I am so privileged to have the opportunity to engage in, degrade to me versus you, I lose something valuable. I lose my honesty.

Some of my ideas and opinions and views are ignorant. Some of them are immature or silly. Some of them are wrong. Some of them may even be dangerous.

And that makes me versus you a lie.

Because I'm not all right. And you aren't all wrong.

When I stick my fingers in my ears and close my eyes, when I won't hear you out or look through your eyes I'm saying that I don't need to. I'm saying that my ideas are unexcelled, my reasoning flawless, my perspective perfect.

It's a lie.

It's an easy lie for me to tell.

It's an easy lie for me to believe.

So back to these radios and newspapers and websites - you know, the ones with the poles. If all I see and all I believe is me versus you then I guess I have my eyes shut and my fingers in my ears. And if I have my eyes shut and my fingers in my ears, then all I hear is myself. And if all I hear is my own self, then I'm hearing lies. Not all lies - because just like not everything I say or think is right, not everything is wrong either - but lies nonetheless.

I need to hear truth from you so I know where and why I'm wrong. And you need to hear truth from me so you know where and why you're wrong.

But that means we need our honesty.

It also means we need each other.

So I want to learn to see and hear you. And I want you to learn to see and hear me. Sometimes you might have to pry my eyes open. Sometimes I may have to drag your fingers out of your ears. But maybe if we do that long enough we'll make it to a different kind of place in our discourse, a different place in our articles and soundbites. And maybe it will be the sort of place where making progress keeps our hands and fingers too busy to bother our ears, and where we need our eyes too much for walking forward to close them.

I hope so.

Because then I think we'll be a little more honest.

And you know, this really smart guy had something to say about honesty once...

Note: Thanks Amanda for letting me word-vomit on your awesome blog. I was pretty much giddy like a schoolgirl when you asked if I would. And thanks Amanda's blog readers for slogging through this behemoth post (if indeed you did, and I don't blame you if you didn't.) Amanda already linked to my blog above, but - as you'll see if you try to click it - my blog is "private." Private doesn't mean you can't read it, however! If you ever want to check it out all you have to do is shoot me an email at kelleyarowe(at)gmail(dot)com and let me know. I'll add you to the reader's list and you'll receive a verification e-mail from Blogger letting you know you're approved. Annoying, but not too painful I hope. Thanks again. -Kelley

P.S. The post title is from a seriously awesome song by Jon Foreman (who is - funnily enough - a seriously awesome artist.) I would definitely encourage you to check it out. And then check out all his other songs. I mean hey, might as well while you're at it, right? ;)


amo (amanda) said...

this, my fellow blog readers is why I am grateful for the friends I have! Thank you Kelley for being so transparent and so real. It's not easy to give and take with people at times and it's definitely something I have to figure out for myself as well. But as I go through life, learning to listen twice as much as I speak, I learn that there is hope in humanity . . . they just needed someone to listen to them and let them know it's there. :D

And Jon Foreman is a Music Master! :D

Kelley R. said...

...That's kind of like a StairMaster, right?

Thanks; I'm really, really glad you like it. :D

Whateverman said...

It's been a while since I've read your blog, Amo. Sorry about that. I find that I often don't have the time to stay current on all the people places and things I'm interested in...

Kelley's a smart cookie (macadamia chocolate chunk, if I'm not mistaken), and I agree with her about the polarization thing. I find that those who speak the loudest are most willing to portray everything in black and white terms. It only takes a few minutes of honest investigation to discover that the world is made of shades of gray.

Two things I wanted to comment on. One, I find it amazing that as I get older, "the older I get, the less I know" seems to be making way too much sense. Even worse, I see other people getting older and NOT understanding this bit of wisdom. It may be time for the moderates (or maybe those people who are simply cautious) to stand up and proclaim our ignorance. The phrase "I'm not sure" really needs to be burned into our collective American consciousness.

Second, part of the problem may also be that people seem unwilling to be introspective. Or maybe they don't like being honest with themselves. Before we get to the point where uncertainty informs our opinions & actions, we as individuals need to understand why we individually like/dislike stuff. Why am I a moderate? Why am I suspicious of religious conservatives? Why do I like death metal and jazz, but not country music?

I had a conversation with my father a while ago, and I've never been able to forget it. When I asked him why he liked a particular political view, he said he didn't know. When I pressed him on this, he said he didn't think knowing WHY he liked stuff was important.

His idea scares me a little :)