Today, on my way out of the QFC by my house, I nearly got run over.
That might be a slight exaggeration, but when you’re engaged in your own head (or, in my case, in the stuff coming out of my headphones), any interruption seems dire. At any rate, I was in the crosswalk and there were cars moving more quickly (i.e., not stopped) than I was comfortable with.
I wasn’t paying attention because I was listening (on the aforementioned headphones) to The Civil Conversation Project podcast from On Being. It was a discussion about the future of gay marriage by two prominent men on opposite sides of the issue. It was not, however, a debate; it was a conversation, a passionate but respectful exchange of ideas. That in itself (especially as we drag ourselves to the bloody end of a long election season) would be enough to make me wander in to traffic.
But what really did it was David Blankenhorn, a longtime opponent to gay marriage, explain the value of doubt, what it means to be uncertain about your beliefs, no matter how closely held [entire clip here; relevant quote starting around 29′]. Without doubt–true, honest doubt–we don’t need other people; we don’t need anyone who disagrees with us. We may pay lip-service to the idea that another person’s opinion and beliefs matter; but to actually enter the fray and allow doubt to be entertained? This is something most of us are loathe to do.
As soon as I heard him say it, I knew it was true, generally and specifically. It was about the time I almost (or not quite) got hit by a car.
It explains so much of the way our discourse–or lack thereof–is playing out right now. Doubt, Blankenhorn says, is not weakness; it is strength to look honestly from another’s position. Not to roll over and agree, but to understand.
This is the way we’re meant to engage in the world, and with each other; and for what it’s worth, poetry–and art of all kinds–helps us do that. It doesn’t make for easy or compact answers, but it does foster a greater stock of reality. It opens up news ways of understanding ourselves and one another.
Hope is littered everywhere. Even in the middle of crosswalks.