Consecutive Days Riding: 144 Days Blogged: 128
New Mileage: 4 Total Trip Mileage: 1006
Today was my first day back from Spring Break. I taught three classes in a row that then spent an hour dealing with a student crisis. After my hour plus drive home and a short ride on the bike I was exhausted, so I decided to rerun one of my posting from early December that continues to be visited on a regular basis by new viewers of my blog. I hope you enjoy it! Tomorrow we will talk about political intrigue and the “New Thought” movement in the early 1900s.
* * * *
I am an optimist! I believe that with a focused effort people can regain control over their individual lives and that we as a culture and society can solve the dilemmas and threats we face. However, I am also a realist! I know there are many opposing forces at play in our lives and that of our culture and society. Some forces bring us together while others push us apart. Finding the middle ground, the point of balance between these forces is a daunting task for an individual and a society. This is part of the reason why people seek out therapists, spiritual leaders, and the wisdom of the ages.
Yesterday I paused at the entrance to a colleague’s office, an historian, to inquire about his holiday break. I know his beliefs on a lot of topics and they bear little resemblance to my own. An initial discussion of his lingering head cold soon turned to politics and religion. I had not intended to steer the discussion in this direction but it went there at his insistence. He wanted to talk about “them Muslims and terrorists” and how they are all the enemy. Several times I caught myself becoming defensive and pulled back from confronting his views. Instead I argued for the need to learn more about the Muslims viewpoint so that we might connect with the more moderate element of their faith. He eventually agreed with my statement that an “us versus them” or an “I’m right and your wrong” approach to such matters leaves no one a winner. Then with barely a pause he noted how the Muslims needed to change first as it was their fault that these are increasingly dangerous times.
This represents an example of dichotomous thinking and can be defined as: thinking that is also sometimes called “black or white thinking.” This is when someone is only able to see the extremes of a situation, and is unable to see the “gray areas” or complexities of the situation.” Such thinking sits up a vicious “us versus them” trap. If truth and righteousness are on our side then why is there any need to understand, accept or compromise with anyone we see as an opponent. If we hold up a pre-conceived idea of what it means to “meet us half way” then are we not simply demanding that they endorse our position? Is it at all surprising that presented with these demands, those on the other side will become defensive and see their only option to be resistance in various forms, including perhaps suicide bombings? I’m reminded of reading the following quote by Pat Buchanan to a Christian Coalition meeting: “Our culture is superior. Our culture is superior because our religion is Christianity and that is the truth that makes men free.” With this attitude why do we need to sit down and have a discussion with anyone of another religion, culture, sexual orientation, or political party?
I am reminded of Abraham Maslow’s well known “Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid”. He notes that the lower level “Deficiency Needs” of safety and belonging seem stronger in pull than the higher level “Being Needs” such as justice, beauty, compassion and love. One needs to be reflective and attuned to recognize and hear the “voices” of these higher needs. One needs to be aware of the “humanness” of those people who seem opposed to us and of the similarity of our own emotions and needs.
I left this disturbing interaction with my colleague and immediately took a walk. I savored the sting of the winter breeze on my face, filled my lungs with deep breaths of the cold air and listened to the rhythmic sounds of my footsteps. I let the calming influence of nature bring me back to the moment.
Why do some people create altars in their living space, place a bench under a cherished tree, walk a favorite path, or go on a spiritual pilgrimage journey? I believe it is because during these times and in these places we experience moments of balance in our lives which help us to see the possibility of similar balance in the larger world. If only more of the dichotomous thinkers could or would avail themselves to these peaceful places. Perhaps then we would all be closer to finding true peace.
Thanks to The Curious Animator at www.tomjech.com/blog/category/images for the dichotomous thinking cartoon. If you enjoyed this posting please consider signing up for the stationarypilgrim’s e-mail list by clicking on the subscribe button at the top right of this page… thank you for visiting!