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Friday, February 15, 2008

The Road Less Traveled--to Understanding

The eZine FEAST focuses on books, art, food, film, and travel, and I ask each guest bloggers to write about one of those topics. Our next guest, MELANIE MULHALL, has chosen a “road less traveled” to write about—the emotional and mental road we each must travel in negotiating relationships and making choices about belief systems. It’s a timely topic in many ways. Welcome Melanie!

Presidential election years seem to include so much divisiveness, posturing around social issues, and political shenanigans that it is easy to lose track of who we are—or can be—to each other as human beings. It is only February and I am already weary of it all.

Caring about issues without becoming as inflexible as a piece of petrified wood is not easy. I had an experience with that difficulty, literally in my own backyard, last summer.

My best friend was visiting from Illinois. It had been years since she had been to Colorado and I was savoring every minute. We have a long history of marathon talks about everything from philosophy to the mundane details of life and, one late afternoon, as we relaxed with glasses of wine on my deck, she brought up a social issue she is passionate about. As she spoke, I realized her position was very different than mine. I appreciated her rationale, and knew it had been forged from a mixture of sincere caring and deep thinking, but my own conclusions were very different from hers. We had weathered many things together, but I was not eager to express my disagreement.

Eventually my lack of comment caused her to lapse into silence and she eyed me with a commingling of curiosity and anticipation. I realized I was not getting off the hook. As I spoke, I watched her body language become antsy, then a bit rigid. I feared I was watching a thirty year relationship disintegrate before my eyes.

We did manage to weather that difference of opinion but I find myself wondering how people who are not as close as best friends can manage to disagree without making each another bad or wrong. It is not an easy stream to navigate. On the one hand, we each have a sense of what is moral, ethical, logical, and practical. On the other hand, we understand that there are many ways of looking at the world and want to honor other ways of being. That day I wanted to really listen to my friend, but I will not deny that I had to remind myself that her way of thinking was valid, not misguided, from her model of the world.

Of course, one’s model of the world is influenced by many things. Anyone who has traveled broadly and deeply enough to get past the artificial protection of the guided tour has probably been struck by both the similarities and profound differences between people who have been raised in different cultures and circumstances.

My own model of the world includes a belief that organic things (humans included) thrive and evolve through flexibility and diversity. I needed to remember that then and I’m going to remind myself of it often this election year.

Melanie Mulhall is a Colorado-based freelance writer and editor who specializes in making words sing, dance, and get attention. Melanie is also author of the EVVY Award–winning book, Living The Dream—A Guidebook For Job Seekers and Career Explorers. You can find her at her web sites, http://www.thatcopywriter.com/ and http://www.thedragonheart.com/, reach her by email at mmulhall@earthlink.net, or contact her by telephone at 303-469-5780.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Melanie Mulhall's comments about differences of viewpoints was calm and well reasoned - a great topic for the political season. I imagine many of us change our views over time, no doubt because of varied experiences.

In my case, I changed, in part, as a result of cultivating friendships with people who have other views of the world. Making alternative choices or running up against different experiences could well have made me into another person.

I think this is one of few areas of humanity where experience rules over genetics. For me, change comes in fits and starts. Changing viewpoints kindle new views of myself. Like regularly shedding one skin for another.

Opinions are powerful things. In a way, our viewpoints define us at any given moment. Karen Lin http://www.karenalbrightlin

Marion Johnson said...

I am tired of the political process too but it's part of the American way. As long as I profess to be an american, I guess I have to listen to them say exactly what we want them to say knowing full well that they won't be able to do half of the things they promise. I changed my party so I could vote for Hillary and now I see that she isn't doing so well. I read where a group is forming to support her so hope they help.
This too is for Melanie Mulhall. I find whenever I express my opinion, I can expect that others may not think as I do. The fact that you hesitated to speak when your friends thoughts didn't agree with you is that you were considering her feelings. Not speaking was in fact your way of saying you did not agree with her but was considering your ideas and comparing them to hers. Thinking maybe, her ideas were worth thinking about or dismissing them as in conflict of your own. Under the circumstances, your silence should be honored just as you were honoring her and your friendship by not speaking.She considered your silence and you remained friends. But it's not always that way. The issue is always between you. You didn't see eye to eye on one subject.Are you as close as you once were, afterall, her ideas were foreigh to your way of thinking. You'll never know and she won't know, it will always be something between you. Your analysis of the subject is good, is accurate in a sense but as you muse more about it, consider this, two friends, not on the same page.

carolina gallo said...

I am active in CAnadian public policy and community life and my hope is that government and society finds those elements that are common to everyone, elements that make a civil and civic society possible.
Commonality is a challenge becuase of values. Can we speak of the fundamental security of the person, as an individual, without lapsing into violent disagreements over what is a "person"? The other issue is that when you constantly ahve to descend to the lowest yet most acceptable common denominator for consensus in society...we lose excellence...but then again, as many famous people have said, Democracy aint perfect but it is the better option. Thank you for that essay: it resonated.