What I value most in the present time is the willingness to understand one another, in the absence of value judgments, efficacy assessments and deconstructions of validity, and I find this is an increasingly precious commodity. I see a lot of derision with respect to those who are different, a lot of over-simplistic explanations for another person’s views that allow for ready dismissal, and a lot of opinion masquerading as obvious fact or truth.
The human interaction that pains me is when I witness one human being scoff at the mention of another, as if to say, “He’s one of those types.”
In suggesting not only that there are reasons worth understanding at work in the hearts and minds of people who voted for President Trump, but that without understanding and honoring them we are stating a willingness to lose another human being—to accept and perhaps even embrace a drawn battle line—the tables are quite frequently turned and I’m made into a supporter of President Trump. The retort is that if you don’t draw the line somewhere, you’re sort of a fool. There is always something so valuable, so sacred, so necessary on the line that a concession cannot be made. Not for that. Or the assertion is made that a particular viewpoint is so ignorant, so hateful, so ridiculous, the people who share it don’t matter. They’re actually the problem.
It works the other way, too. I use President Trump as an example because it is currently applicable. But the precise same statements could be made about some who harbor a contemptuous dislike of supporters of the Progressive movement, or of the libertarians, or the greens. Or of those who believe in a particular religion, or of those who do not. Or of those who think a particular policy at the office is a good one, or of those who do not. Or of those who lobby for a particular subsidy, law, tariff, right-of-way, public good, or what have you.
What is lost in the shuffle here is whether or not the loss of a person matters—because I make no mistake about this, the closure of one heart to another human is an attempt to notch a person out of the world. It is a profound rift, a scar that cuts through all of us. This statement doesn’t compute in every worldview, and is not necessarily defensible, but it exists at the heart of who I am. I wouldn’t be the same person without this understanding.
The root of the difficulty I see is that most people are afraid of experiencing what it would be like to be different than they are. Most of us have a core belief or two from which we cannot depart without strenuous effort and the overcoming of considerable inner difficulties. Everything about it feels wrong. We feel that if we let go of this particular view and take on another’s, we might not come back. We’d expose ourselves to extreme vulnerability. We’d have to brain wash ourselves, and we don’t want to do that.
And this gets us to what I think is the crux of the matter: we are all profoundly conscious of our ability to be deceived, or of having been deceived, or of seeing another’s self-deception in plain view. The innermost, core stance from which we are unwilling to waiver is our selected defense against deceit. Without it, we would truly be lost. And what value could possibly come from opening ourselves to such recklessness as becoming deceivable once again? In fact, seeing that it is the others who are deceived, we can feel pity for them, or anger at their inability to think and assess courageously, or we can distrust those whose trustworthiness has been broken by the fact they are so obviously deceived to begin with.
What I wish to suggest is that so long as our personal protections against the idea of deception prevent the ultimate act of generosity, we will continue to labor within a broken world. The belief in the efficacy of deception ties into a system of ideas that is difficult to capture in a single blog post—to misplaced notions of what power is, of what value is, of what is at stake in any moment, and of who we ourselves are—but I believe it all stems from the fundamental conceit that we are truly separate. This idea is the plague that has touched us all. In separateness I can win at your expense. In separateness it is reasonable to conclude the world would be better without certain elements in it. In separateness, what is valuable is temporary and unstable. I can’t prove these beliefs are arbitrary, because the world as we know it is based upon them, and reinforces their validity.
But the world is fluid.
What I can offer is the notion that in unity, deception simply does not exist. Not only does it have no efficacy or power to secure a desired outcome, it simply is not possible. Examples to the contrary may arise in each of us, in our thoughts and feelings, in our past experience, in the inventory of suppositions and interpretations that collectively give rise to the idea of who we are. We may resist this idea, but if I was to ask one thing of anyone in these times, it would be this: would you give the ultimate gift of generosity to the person next to you? Would you give yourself for even an instant, with the whole of your being—in a wholehearted way—to the possibility that our safety lies only in our defenselessness?
It will be difficult, I know. I know. Shit. I am scared, too.
These are the X Games of the Heart. We all fall down. What can we do? Pick the person next to you up. Tell them you need them there beside you when you point the tip of your board over the edge. Tell them you can’t do this without them.