There are a few things that are either black or white. But very few.
Most of the time almost everything is defined based on perspective.
Thursday many in the United States will enjoy a holiday tradition that has come to combine turkey and the National Football League. We’ll argue the blurry line between solid defense and pass interference. Or the one that separates a legal hit from a suspension-worthy blow. Even with the multiple camera perspectives and the benefit of instant replay, there will be a handful of plays that are far from black and white.
This is the problematic nature of lines in the sand. Or absolutes. It is next to impossible for our view to transcend our perspective.
But these days it seems the rhetoric is laden with the belief that things are black or white — that virtually everything is about red or blue.
Collegial debates have deteriorated into strident contests with one goal – to win. At all costs. And in the process, the exploration of aspirations – once the stuff from which shared and dynamic vision was born — has morphed into positions adopted solely based on the color of the jersey we wear. Or the appropriate positions of red versus blue.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a good debate. Ours was a home where mom and dad would articulate positions they did not believe in — partially to teach youngsters in the room to think; and partially because we all enjoyed the sport of debate.
But the debates these days aren’t fun. They’re venomous, rife with name-calling. Short on listening. And too much of the time everyone walks away angry.
The Demise of Dialogue
When I did time in radio, conversations around sex, religion and politics (with a dose of rock-and-roll) were the staple for ratings. These topics were certain to engage listeners from opposite ends of a spectrum. And while this strategy insured lively conversation, there was little real dialogue. Everyone was out to convert.
Maybe it was entertaining; but not many of us are open to conversion.
So what are we to do? Fight each conversation to an angry draw? Are we doomed to never again share aspirations…pursine great dreams?
Lines drawn in the sand, however clear and deep they seemed when originally cast, are easily obscured. Even erased. A gust of wind or the shuffling of real life tends to blur things, alter perspectives, or even create new lines.
What becomes of our communities…if we refuse to explore, collaborate, and engage in real dialogue?
A Thankful Perespective
One of the things I value most about the season that is upon us in the United States is that it affords a moment conducive to realigning our perspective. For the next few weeks it seems easier to focus on the very few things that are, in my view, black and white. Here are two:
- Nothing outlasts real relationship. Disproportionate investment of time, energy and emotion here is the mistake to make.
- It is in giving that we receive.
I offer this not as a political, theological or social argument; it is born of personal experience. Call it what you will.
If you’re reading this post, chances are we have some things in common – not the least of which is we have much for which to be thankful. Conversations that spring from this perspective might just give rise to healthy, productive dialogue in coming days and weeks. Maybe even progress, and vision.