This week, I had civic discourse kindness on the brain.
First off, I was narrating a new title for Tantor Media, Wish I Were Here: Boredom and the Interface by Mark Kingwell.
While the central theme is around the existential enervation we often feel in our technology-mediated life these days, he speaks at length about how the Internet has seriously degraded our ability to be civil to one another when discussing our political and social convictions.
I was then prompted to revisit a piece by David Brooks that my friend Daniel sent me a while back, Kindness Is a Skill, which offers a collection of best practices for bringing people together to discuss heated topics in a way that honors the essential dignity of all parties.
This morning, I heard Jamie George give a moving account of the epic life journey of St. Patrick.
Here was a person who, after escaping enslavement by crude, war-mongering and fearful barbarians, made it his mission to return to those same people, to deeply understand their stories, and find a way to love them past their hatred.
Only-child and ennegram type seven that I am, I usually run in the opposite direction when I feel conflict conversations brewing. I basically checked out of following the news and engaging in political discussions in January of 2017.
But I’m seeing now just how cowardly I’ve been.
If we’re going to survive this hyper-interconnected era, we’ve got to find a way to transcend our differences. As Kingwell suggests, that may take some serious scaffolding to help keep our conversations civil (rules akin to the yellow lines on the roads we use to keep us from smashing into one another), but I’m convinced that the power of dialogue is not dead.
Perhaps we could best honor St. Patrick by having a pint at the pub with someone whose perspectives really piss us off. And then doing our damnedest to hear the fear and pain behind all the rhetoric and somehow love them anyway.
What have we got to lose?
Make this week magnificent!