Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Pro-Dialogue
For some reason — let’s say another way to paraphrase “repairing public discourse” is, we want to grow up as a society. We want to be worthy of the moment we inhabit and meet it with our best. We possess a lot of intelligence in our lives, in our families about, for example, that nothing gets any better if people don’t acknowledge mistakes they made, and we don’t embrace that and encourage them to grow, and that you never, ever change anybody’s mind by telling them how stupid they are, ever.
Ms. Tippett:Ever in history has that happened.
Ms. Kohn:Well, I want to say, to me, the opposite of hate isn’t love. It’s connection. You don’t have to love people to not hate them. You have to see that you have something at your core, a fundamental humanity, a fundamental goodness, that transcends the division. The reason I talk about my Aunt Lucy is, there are people who, when you meet them, when you know them, when I talk to my trolls, you realize that we’re at a point in our society, in our history, where we focus on a very small sliver of our beliefs to fight over. I don’t know about you, but when I see my relatives who I don’t agree with on 100 percent of — first of all, I have a whole bunch of relatives I don’t agree with on 100 percent of political issues. But I don’t see them as — they’re still on my side because we — I don’t know; what do we agree on? Ninety percent of the political issues? Where’s that dividing line? The point is, when I see my Aunt Lucy — all right, maybe we disagree on even more — I still love her. I still care about her. I still know she’s a good person and wants what’s best for me and my family and the country and the world. That is a really good place to be able to start to then talk about what we disagree on.
And then there comes a point, as Dr. Martin Luther King said so well, where we’re called to be the Good Samaritan and lift our neighbor out of the ditch. But after you lift so many people out of the ditch, you start to say, “Maybe the whole road to Jericho needs to be transformed.
Ms. Tippett: There’s something not just in the way you see your Christianity, but in the way you look at the world. It’s a very holistic vision. So, for example, you’ve taken the old adage that if you give someone a fish, they’ll eat for a day, but if you teach them how to fish, they can eat for a lifetime. But you say, “We also need to ask who owns the pond and who polluted it.
.. And I’m convinced that if the Christian church loses this generation, it will be not because we didn’t entertain them, but because we didn’t dare them with the truth of the world. It won’t be because we’d made the Gospel too hard, but because we made it too easy, and we just played games with kids and didn’t actually challenge them to think about how they live.
There’s something magnetic about a group of people that say, “Hey, we don’t have it all figured out, and we need each other.” We’re broken people and in the middle of that brokenness I feel like the spirit is able to connect.
I’m also thinking a lot lately that Descartes has so much to answer for — his idea, “I think therefore I am.” Western culture is so built around this overly cerebral, disembodied way we’ve created all of our institutions, and we’re impoverished by it. We’re so much smaller for it.
MS. ENSLER: So much smaller. It’s so funny that you’re saying that, because during my cancer, I used to just chant all the time, “I feel therefore I am.” I’m in my body, therefore I can feel my existence. I feel the breath. I feel the living, breathing fiber that is humanness. This notion of objectivity — as if that were ever possible, as if the brain could somehow separate you from your subjective self — has created a level of dissociation on the planet. You can get yourself into a mind-set which keeps you from opening your heart.
Philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah offers hope for quiet, sustained culture shift through the “endless shared conversation” of friendship. The writer of the New York Times “Ethicist” column studies how deep social change happens across time and cultures. “If you have that background of relationship between individuals and communities that is conversational, then when you have to talk about the things that do divide you, you have a better platform.”
If you have that background of relationship between individuals and communities that is, in that sense, conversational, then when you have to talk about the things that do divide you, you have a better platform. You can begin with the assumption that you like and respect each other even though you don’t agree about everything, and you can maybe build on that. And you can know that, at the end of the conversation, it’s quite likely that you’ll both think something pretty close to what you both thought at the start. But people who’ve been heard and whose position is understood — this is one of the great virtues of democracy when it’s working — tend to be more willing to accept an outcome that they wouldn’t have chosen because they feel they’ve had voice; they’ve participated in the process.
Millions of people around the world have found pragmatic tools in his vision that fundamentally complicates the notion, “I think, therefore I am.”
I thought, “My God. Her voice — she never stops talking.” And I suddenly realized, well, I do that, too, except that I don’t do it out loud. And then I thought, I hope I don’t end up like her. And somebody next to me looked at me, and I suddenly realized in shock that I had actually said these words aloud, just like her. I said, “I hope I don’t end up like her.” [laughs]
So I realized my mind was as incessantly active as hers. Our only difference was that my thought was mostly based on feeling sorry for myself. It was depressed kind of thinking. Her patterns were fueled by anger. It took years before I finally was able to really step out of the stream of thinking and realize, there is a place inside me that is far more powerful than the continuous mental noise with which for many, many years I had been completely identified, just like that woman.