Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Building Bridges Of The Mind

Being open to seeing how someone else thinks about things is a thing I'm still learning how to do. It's essential if I want to change someone's mind. Well, not change minds per se, but maybe make someone else realize that just maybe their views and mine really aren't that far apart, once all the divisive chaff is cleared away. To do that, my mind needs to be open enough to see alternative views, too, in order to see where we can go from there.

Artist:  Richard Tuschman

Saying that is one thing, doing it is harder. Which is why I'm still trying to figure out how to speak with people who I don't agree with in a way that doesn't immediately anger them or put them on the defensive. Or—at even more imporantly—allow trigger words or phrases to do that to me. If I engage in that state of mind, nothing good is likely to come of it. Because being angry and outraged (whether unconsciously or consciously) only pushes away the person you're supposedly trying to compromise with. If I'm going to address a problem, I want to find common ground. Being angry and outraged lights up the circuits in the brain in a way that seems "right" in that moment... but I don't think it really leads to compromise and good outcomes.

Here's an example to put some of this in context: if my hypothetical eight-year-old daughter tells me she's scared to go to sleep because there's a monster under her bed, I don't tell her "Sally, you idiot! Don't you know there's no such thing as monsters?"

Why? Because telling Sally she's stupid for believing as she does just adds another problem to the first one, because now Sally is mad, sad, and defensive IN ADDITION to believing that there is a monster under her bed. Plus, demeaning her intelligence is just mean. No parent willingly wants to be mean to their child. Nor should we willingly want to be mean to other people,.

Because hey, they're someone's kid, too.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

President Mitchell

Mitchell died when I was ten. Somewhere around that age, although maybe I was nine, or eleven. But I remember when Mitchell died. It was winter and he was sledding. Down one of the unbelievably massive ridges of snow that street-plows used to pile up along the sides of South Dakota streets before climate change. He slipped under a car that drove by at just the wrong time.

Mitchell's death got to me. It was the first death I was old enough to appreciate and understand. All these decades later, I can still recapture the sick-at-my-core cloudy blot of darkness and loss that his senseless death conjured in my ten-year-old gut.

I like to think that if he had lived, maybe the world would be in a better place. In fact, maybe that's when things went off the road in this reality. Except that it was such a small thing compared to world events that no one (outside the small town where I grew up) noticed. A butterfly flaps its wings, a child dies too soon, that sort of thing.

I wonder if in another reality, where Mitchell lived... things would be different. Who knows, maybe he'd have risen to become the 45th president.

Mitchell, somewhere out there, I hope you're doing right by the life you never got to lead here.