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Strong opinions surface in a family email thread

On my 60th birthday, my perceptive, imaginative friend, Liz Palladino, gave me a box that looked just like a book. You open the cover and it’s filled with writing prompts. Best gift ever. It’s inspired me to create a new Medium series called Writings from Liz’s BookBox. Gonna try and hit it every week till I get through the whole thing.

Anything you think you know — look again. You might learn something.

The root of the word “respect” is “spek,” which means to observe. The prefix “re,” of course, means to do it again. Recalibrate. Reassess. Respect. Respect is the act of careful observation, and then more of the same.

Recently, there was an email exchange within my extended family about current events. We all think we know what’s really going on, but we don’t agree, and that makes genuine conversation difficult. I tried to do what my sister (with whom I vehemently disagree) invited us to do. Be still.

I highly recommend this practice.

If you sit long enough in this stillness, you may find that each and every one of us is attached to a way of seeing the world. I see things much more like my nieces do. My brother stands on the other end, closer to my sister’s viewpoint. But I’ve come to understand that the more we think we know “the truth,” the less of the real truth we can let in.

And that includes me. When I think someone is being profoundly misled by their attachments, I am aware that the same could easily be true of me. Is true of me. Strong opinions blind us.

For instance, we look at what is going on at the United States border and get all worked up about it (on one side or the other), and we skip over the detention centers going on inside our own hearts.

What thoughts and emotions are barred from entering consciousness, even though they are desperate for admission? What unmet needs for self-compassion are we starving in the name of ‘security’? And working outward, who in our immediate circle needs asylum from the cruelties of daily life? Think about your partner, your sibling, a friend, or the guy who just cut you off in traffic. We shut down. We shut people out of our circle of mercy because we’re tired. e just don’t want to work that hard.

But that’s the work in front of us. When we refuse to do it, we end up with the very situation we’re looking at now.

World events do require our authentic and vigorous response. But that response must be informed (will be informed) by our personal behavior. When we respond to hatred with hatred, we are only mirroring (and strengthening) what we think is wrong with the world. Nobody wins.

But what if we turned that mandate inward? What if we asked ourselves to wake up and stop believing only what we’re being told or what we want to believe? What if we left room for the possibility that our very nature as humans manipulates us into believing what we see?

What we see cannot possibly be the whole of what is.

Respect isn’t restraint from making public your private thoughts. Respect is looking again, really observing your own thoughts.

After doing that for a while this morning, the only thing that matters to me right now is this: can I behave toward you the way I would want our government to behave toward the people, the animals, and the environment in our world?

Let’s hold this question in our hearts. Let’s let it be the app that’s running our speech as we engage in conversations about the Amazon, the country, the world (especially during this election season). Keep looking inward. Really look.

Then look again.


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