If I had to wrap up the 2016 election in one word, it would be “odd,” not “unbelievable” or “tragic” or “absurd.”
Odd because I kept hearing and reading from people who were convinced everyone who held the opposing view was misguided, wrong, or stupid. Outcome aside this question kept popping into my head:
Why are we so surprised when others disagree with us? If you’re here for a political rant, you’ll be disappointed because I’m not targeting either candidate. I’m targeting your soul.
I think it’s odd that our diversity is surprising. Case and point, during election season many individual Americans (.000000003% of America) often direct a personal, verbal attack at 25% of Americans (approximate number of votes both Clinton and Trump received). Thanks to social media, these attacks can even be launched directly at the target person. In one sense this is truly awesome, but many of these attacks aren’t creating a context for an answer, they’re creating a context for a war. For the love of all good things, stop this immediately.
Where does this come from? Let’s break this idea down and lower the picket signs for the time being.
Surprise is a light on our apathy and ignorance
Being surprised others believe and act differently than us is odd behavior because it’s a universal guarantee. When we feel surprise, this is our first indicator that we’re missing something. That thing is Empathy.
Apathy and ignorance are not things we place in our pocket. They’re parasites we don’t know are in our system. They’re there because in one way or another we’ve been living in the dark, passionately agreeing with our like minded friends and entrenching ourselves in the facts we already know. We have to stop this because it’s killing our souls. Unity, not uniformity is our only chance for social renovation.
Your soul demands perspective
We must recognize the need in our souls for criticism and input from others. People understand this in the business world. Having a board of advisers or investors isn’t just about money, it’s about accountability and perspective. If your business doesn’t get input from others, your competitor will, and they will crush you.
Our beliefs can only be realized to their full potential once they’ve been tested. Since we can’t know every other belief, we must, at a bare minimum, be welcoming to the challenges other beliefs offers us. Diversity is an opportunity for a superior unity, which is really why we have the “University.” Perspective pushes us all towards the truth by exposing the cracks in our individual beliefs.
If by now we agree this is a problem, then here are some ways we can fix it.
4 ways to stop entrenching and start conversing
Befriend someone different than yourself
This isn’t as hard as you think. “Hello, I’m trying to learn more about Indian culture. Can I ask you a few questions about it?” The reason this is daunting is because it’s uncomfortable, requires effort, and “worst” of all requires the admission that we might be ignorant or wrong. But let’s unmask that. Are we so uncomfortable, lazy, or stubborn that we’d rather believe something that may not be true than allow it to be tested? The frightening answer to that question could save your soul.
Watch a variety of medias
This road is well-trodden, so let’s just say, there is probably no such thing as “independent” media in the truest sense (since it’s run by humans). Who do you follow on Twitter? Do they add diversity to your information digest, or do they confirm everything you already believe? What’s your news station? Do you believe what they say, or do you test it?
Look them in the eyes
We are a massive collection of diverse and imperfect beings sharing a space. Never cease to marvel at the opportunity before us to see the soul behind the soldier and reverse centuries of racism, ignorance, and hatred one look and one conversation at a time. The literal act of looking someone in the eyes is a channel for empathy. Maybe that’s the real reason a firing squad blindfolds the target.
Look at the stars and be still
We all share the free gift of being alive. Take a break from your anger and allow a starlit perspective to cool your nerves and return you to a state where unity is the goal. Then start having conversations that lead to action.
I’ll leave you with this idea: conversation isn’t compromise. We can’t just live in a gray space between right and wrong, but we all must choose between whether we want votes and head-nodders or whether we want an open channel for discussion with those who oppose or question us.
We aren’t soldiers in bodies. We are souls in space.