A man walks into a clinic to purchase the opportunity to quarrel. It’s an old Monty Python skit that takes a satirical look at weird services you can buy. Strangely enough, I wish that were an actual thing.
The holidays are challenging. Last month, many of us got together with people we love and are related to (not mutually exclusive), but don’t always see eye to eye with. Dinner conversations were fraught with land mines and taboo subjects, and we were happy when we get to dessert unscathed. A month earlier, midterm election painted partisan lines so boldly it’s hard to see the other side. When did we come to the conclusion that if someone doesn’t agree with us, they were evil, unworthy and immoral? NYU professor, Jonathan Haidt said, “Morality binds and blinds. It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say.”
~Echo chambers in Sensurround~
I long for intellectual discourse. I desire the opportunity to delve deep into a subject and explore reasonings that differ from mine. Not to prove others wrong, as much as strengthen my ideas. Why is it so important to “win” and point out others are at fault? Does it feel good? Perhaps, but I find it a shallow victory, there’s little glory and the prize is that we created larger chasms. You end up standing on a mantle with people who are so much like you it’s an echo chamber in Sensurround. I want rich interactions filled with juicy discourse. Michael Palin argued that, “An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition….it’s an intellectual process.”
I’m bored with people ‘unfriending’ those who do not share your viewpoint. It’s too simple, too lackadaisical. There’s little effort to expand one’s own knowledge and understanding. To learn and grow beyond one’s current state and possibly, be…(gasp) wrong. There’s risk, there’s vulnerability and there’s a chance that one may need to reexamine their thinking.
I would also argue our creativity and innovation are effected by this lack of discourse. Bear with me a minute. In order to create or innovate, you try something that’s never been done, or at least never been done by you. There’s risk and chance involved. In a world that revolves around the realm of teaching to the test, where there’s little margin for failure, no one who wants to excel would stray from the known, time proven model. There’s little grace given and no sense in trying. Author Daniel Coyle of The Culture Code writes about creating stronger communities. He discusses the need to be vulnerable to create trust and belonging cues for connections.
“Belonging cues possess three basic qualities: 1. Energy: They invest in the exchange that is occurring 2. Individualization: They treat the person as unique and valued 3. Future orientation: They signal the relationship will continue.” ~ Daniel Coyle
These days there is precious little effort in this direction. The divide grows and we become more fractal and disjointed. Yes, Robert Frost, “good fences make good neighbors”, and I’d venture to add, good arguments make for better discussions, growth, learning, creativity and community.