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What Was the Question?

Should I even be writing?

God knows.

I’m so tired.

I feel like the last meaningful word was wasted miles and miles behind me, now sitting in a ditch as roadkill, at best.

What can I possibly say?

I was present at a conversation not long ago… Sitting around on couches in a sunlit room, talking about the latest news… and the conversation made its way to “What is happening in the world these days?” Everyone had the usual things to say. All worried, all nodding, all wondering the same things. One person, interestingly, took it upon themselves to say - with some bluntness - that war has been around forever, and it’s clearly not going to change, so the best thing we can do is arm ourselves, be strong, and fight when we must fight.

With some beauty, the conversation slowly wandered to “What happens between countries is the same as what happens between people”. People argued that even in our private lives, we solve problems with aggression, manipulation, and self-centeredness; true compassion and mutual understanding - especially in a conflict - are rare.

I was intrigued to hear the same individual describe - with the same bluntness - how you can try all you want to understand the people you contend with, but some people are just “over-sensitive”, and “crazy”, and it’s clear that they’re the problem and there’s nothing you can do about it. This was the same person who had just defended war, minutes earlier. And there was much aggression in that voice… and an atmosphere of fear among the listeners, as if their silence spelled the words: “How can we communicate with this person?”

Conversations that are lost in anger are just that: They are lost in anger. Sitting in front of my computer, and seeing so many posts… I feel like the entire conversation - worldwide, regardless of the incident - is dominated by a single question: WHO IS RIGHT? Who started it? Who broke the rules (and my god, I have to wonder… Who wrote the rules?) Who played fair, and who didn’t play fair? It’s almost as if we are asking “Who deserves to live, and who deserves to die?”

I’ve heard conversations of this kind, in one form or another, a thousand times. A million times. I am exhausted. I can almost predict the conversation before it starts. I’m just so tired of this conversation.

I want to propose that we start recognizing the “who is right” question when we see it, and really ask ourselves if it is helping. Is it helping? Honestly… Is it helping?

I am really starting to feel like we need to graduate from this question. I want to propose a new one - whether you are arguing with someone over dinner, or at a traffic light, or at a conference, or on a bloody battlefield (and we seem to have no shortage of those). Even if you feel like the other side is crazy, I wonder if it is possible to ask:

What can we learn from this?

And PS… If you find yourself answering in anger, terror, or frustration, take a break. Find a way to check yourself. Ask others what they think. And try again.


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