I won't claim 2022 to be my year! I'm going to be good, keep my head down, walk in real quietly, and touch nothing!
Although there are moments I feel like this, 2022 has a lot of potential for positive change. To make positive change, however, requires a hefty amount of courage, a hardy sense of our common humanity, and a generous amount of compassion. I think we all can agree that the levels of anger, sadness, and disillusionment in our country are higher than they've been in many years.
In an On Being podcast interview with Alain de Botton, Krista Tippett and he had the following exchange:
de Botton: We associate the word “love” with private life. We don’t associate it with life in the republic; with civil society. But I think that a functioning society requires — well, it requires two things that, again, just don’t sound very normal, but they require love and politeness. And by “love” I mean a capacity to enter imaginatively into the minds of people with whom you don’t immediately agree, and to look for the more charitable explanations for behavior which doesn’t appeal to you and which could seem plain wrong; not just to chuck them immediately in prison.
Tippett: I’ve been having this conversation with a lot of people this year — the truth is, more than ever before perhaps in our world, we are in relationship. We are connected to everyone else. And that’s a fact. Their well-being will impact our well-being; is of relevance to our well-being, and that of our children. But we have this habit and this capacity in public — and also we know that our brains work this way — to see the other — to see those strangers, those people, those people on the other side politically, socioeconomically, whatever, forgetting that in our intimate lives and in our love lives, in our circles of family and friends and in our marriages and with our children, there are things about the people we love the most, who drive us crazy, that we do not comprehend, and yet we find ways to be intelligent, to be loving — because it gets a better result.
de Botton: That’s right. And families are at this kind of test bed of love, because we can’t entirely quit them. And this is what makes families so fascinating, because you’re thrown together with a group of people who you would never pick, if you could simply pick on the grounds of compatibility. Compatibility is an achievement of love. It shouldn’t be the precondition of love, as we nowadays, in a slightly spoiled way, imagine it must be.
My Capuchin Friar friend once told me that living in community was one of the most difficult parts of being an order priest. There are differences of opinion, personality conflicts, and power struggles in a friary just like anywhere else. Priests are human. He followed up his comment with "but living in community is so important for our development because we need to work through our differences and find forgiveness if we are going to continue to live together. We need to let go of minor irritations and give each other grace, while at the same time, finding ways to communicate with each other and find compromise."
For all the positive aspects of social media, there seems to be many more negative qualities. One of the most insidiously threatening aspects of social media is the veiled or anonymous ability to harm masses of others with our words. It is emboldening to be able to remotely and stealthily drop word bombs on others with no motivation for reconciliation. Being in relationship with others can be tenuous and superficial, at best, when we are "friends" with 3,000 people on Snap Chat or Instagram.
The sources of our cultural meanness are many, but it seems our citizenry has lost its taste for civility in our interactions with each other. We are more and more isolated as technology progresses and expands. The value of living in community and getting along with our neighbors has lost its importance if we don't have to interact with them.
One of my intentions in the new year is to engage with people directly and authentically. I have a goal of developing the skill of speaking my mind, even in anger, nonviolently. Check out the book, Nonviolent Communication, by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD. It's a good one!
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