This morning, instead of hopping in the car and driving, I walked. It was brilliant. Brilliantly cold, and brilliantly convicting, like the heat of an afternoon sun after a freezing and wind scourged morning, because before the day even began, I was asked to consider everything I know, and how I know it. And I didn't have any answers.
What do we know, fully, and with confidence, but without knowing why? Without knowing the evidence, the facts, or even just simply the other side?
For me it's a lot of things. But when I first listened to this podcast, I wasn't considering me and what I did or did not know, I was considering others and what they don't know. Because from my perspective, they don't know a lot. And they don't even know it.
The Episode is entitled, Things I Mean to Know by This American Life.
This little soundbite is from the Prologue:
"I started looking into it and it was too hard." So, she, "jumped back into the ocean with the rest of us dummies." Because it was easier. Because getting to the bottom of things is a lot of work, especially when those things don't have easy or definable answers - when they deal with all that human being stuff.
When I heard these lines, I was about three blocks down from my house, kicking a small rock out of my path, and thinking of all those who could benefit from hearing these simple words.
Then I turned the corner and headed down 6th street. The rock lost in someone's yard and the chill of the morning beginning to seep in. I pulled my hat down further then jammed my hands a bit further into my pockets.
A thought was beginning to fester, and by the time I reached the my classroom and chair and Coleman thermos coffee, it was a wild and living thing.
Maybe I'm the one who's wrong?
In recent months I've been questioning myself, my faith, and my life more than I ever have before. Yet, somewhere in all that, I've found plenty of time and arguments for why others have been wrong, why things or ideas have been the source of my befuddlement, and why if everyone could just be as open-minded or loving or accepting as me, things would be pretty damn good.
Then I walked to work and kicked a rock and listened to stories of people talking about what they thought they knew.
On the walk home, Megan Phelps-Roper describe her time as a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, "Most of the time, I would walk away from those conversations feeling like I had won. I never set out to have my mind changed."
Once I saw that we were not the ultimate arbiters of divine truth but flawed human beings, I couldn't justify our actions. . . That period was full of turmoil. But one part I return to often is a surprising realization I had during that time - that it was a relief and a privilege to let go of the harsh judgments that instinctively ran through my mind about nearly every person I saw. I realized that now I needed to learn. I needed to listen.
And so do I. Holy shit so do I.
I need to listen to those who frustrate me, who hurt me, who think incomplete and false thoughts about me. Because they might be right.
Holy shit they might be right. At least in part.
You're not letting go of your truth but understanding someone else's. You need that if you're going to build a bridge and get across and get through.
But to be honest, this is really hard because even through I want to get through, I also want to win - at least in part - because even though I want to understand, I also want to be understood. And even though I want to build bridges and find a way to let go of the harsh judgements that instinctively ran through my mind, I also want to be validated and affirmed in what and who I am.
Which makes the conversation difficult, I think, because - out of self preservation - I talk more than I listen, I defend more than hear, and I explain more than I try to understand.
And that might be the first times I've really understood that.
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