We had family visiting from Florida last week. They were totally unimpressed with our heatwave. In fact, they made fun of us every time my phone beeped with a new alert from the weather app encouraging us to stay safe.
85° is 85°. Whether we consider 85° comfortable or not is a matter of perception.
I was born and raised in Albany. I’m comfortable down to 20° (and 0° if properly dressed). Under no circumstances do I find wind chills of -30° comfortable, nor heat indices above 90°. Perspective is important.
I have two good friends in our community. One is a white Jewish former NYC police officer. The other is a Jew of color who has never served on a police force. Not surprisingly, they have formed radically different opinions over the years. Here, too, perspective is important.
Perspective is derived from several factors including, but not limited to, our life experiences, our circumstances, our influencers, and our education.
One of my favorite speeches was delivered by the Dean of Admissions at the University of Rochester on opening day of my daughter’s freshman year and addressed this issue. He explained to the new students that they had each spent the first 18 or so years of their lives learning, studying, exploring, and forming opinions about the world around them, as had all of the other new students starting that day. But others likely formed at least a few different opinions. He encouraged everyone to spend the next four years listening and learning from each other.
Oh, if it were only so simple. As the late congressman Frank A. Clark pointed out, “We find comfort among those who agree with us—growth among those who don’t.” We don’t want growth. We’re really happy with the opinions that we’ve formed, and now we want comfort.
Mark Twain wrote, “Get your facts first, and then you can distort ‘em as much as you please.” So, we take facts as we understand them, apply perspective, form opinions, and dig in.
We can be better.
I’m engaging with the organization Resetting the Table to put together a series of programs to (re?) teach us how to dialogue with each other—how to really listen with a goal of understanding perspective. At the end of the day, we don’t need to agree. We do, however, need to respect each other enough to want to listen and learn.
If you have the chance, watch their 20-minute video, Purple, about the red/blue divide in American politics. I’d like to start with a facilitated discussion with their educators on this film and take our conversations from there. Please let me know what you think.
Meanwhile, enjoy the weekend. It looks like it will be a hot one (or a cold one, depending on your perspective).
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