Saturday, December 10, 2016

Correct Gently, Listen Deeply

I woke up early this morning and listened to James Hoggan speak before the Commonwealth Club. I would have liked his presentation to be more focused, but I agreed with his central point that the “public square” has become so “polluted” by adversarial tribalism and personal attacks that “we the people” can’t come together to accomplish anything worthwhile and that we wallow in self-defeating intolerance, anger, and despair.

One particularly salient point of Hoggan’s talk is when he said that during his interview with Thich Nhat Hanh he was gently admonished to correct others gently, if necessary, but to listen to them deeply. I don’t recall if those were Thich Nhat Hanh’s exact words, but they were to that effect. And I thought, How often do I do this when I disagree with someone? How often do I listen deeply to what they have to say and then, if I think they’re mistaken about something, correct them gently instead of pouncing on them for their perceived mistake, especially if the subject of our disagreement is political or religious?

This was a rhetorical question because the fact is, if someone has disagreed with me, especially about something political or religious, I’ve been ready to let ‘em have it more often than not. I recount two recent examples of this in a previous blogpost concerning my disagreement with people who thought very poorly of anyone who burned the American flag.

But ever since listening to Mr. Hoggan this morning, I’ve felt like following through with Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice. Moreover, I’ve felt a lot more lighthearted about myself, my beliefs, and life in general, and more good-hearted toward people I disagree with and in general. And, for the time being at least, I want to see the best in everyone and to relate to them accordingly, with kindness in my heart.

I think it’s fair to say that I won’t always feel as inspired to do this as I have so far today. Yet, I’ve increasingly become convinced that one of the surest avenues to feeling a certain way is to act as though I feel that way even when I don’t, and I hope that I can at least sustain this online and off.

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