Searching for truth

/ 11 December 2016

This past week has been so, so strange. The torrent of news flowing out as Trump puts together his Cabinet makes it hard to even know where to begin, in terms of seeking truth and living with integrity. On a very local level, we’ve had an instance of college students thinking they’re being funny at a party off campus, but deeply hurting other students with their hateful joking.

I believe that Sarah Kenzior’s advice is more pertinent than anything else I’ve read lately. Read the whole piece, but here’s a brief excerpt:

My heart breaks for the United States of America. It breaks for those who think they are my enemies as much as it does for my friends. You still have your freedom, so use it. There are many groups organizing for both resistance and subsistence, but we are heading into dark times, and you need to be your own light. Do not accept brutality and cruelty as normal even if it is sanctioned. Protect the vulnerable and encourage the afraid. If you are brave, stand up for others. If you cannot be brave – and it is often hard to be brave – be kind. But most of all, never lose sight of who you are and what you value. If you find yourself doing something that feels questionable or wrong a few months or years from now, find that essay you wrote on who you are and read it. Ask if that version of yourself would have done the same thing. And if the answer is no? Don’t do it.

So here are some things I believe, and I put them out there as the way I try to respond to anything that comes my way — both in person, or in reading about jokes students have made, or in confronting the news torrent. These convictions are framed in this way by Robert Kegan, and they form what he calls “deconstructive propositions”:

There is probable merit to my perspective. My perspective may not be accurate. There is some coherence, if not merit, to the other person’s perspective. There may be more than one legitimate interpretation. The other person’s view of my viewpoint is important information to my assessing whether I am right or identifying what merit there is to my view. Our conflict may be the result of the separate commitments each of us holds, including commitments we are not always aware we hold. Both of us have something to learn from the conversation. We need to have two-way conversation to learn from each other. If contradictions can be a source of our learning, then we can come to engage not only internal contradictions as a source of learning but interpersonal contradiction (i.e., “conflict”) as well. The goal of our conversation is for each of us to learn more about ourselves and the other as meaning makers.