"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Across the Divide

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Across the Divide

Last week we went "home" to the Alpine Lakes Wildnerness (as the poet Gary Snyder said, nature is not a place we visit, it is our home). It was blissful to pass the time with nary a thought beyond "should I swim or hike or canoe or sit here and read with both feet in the water?" I reveled in the openness, became right-sized by the majestic peaks, was mesmerized by dappled light, exhilerated by icy swims, and made quiet by bird chirps, sunshine, breezes, then (on the last day) thunder claps and torrential rain. Nature, such a drama queen. I haven't yet unpacked the car and already, I'm longing to go back.

But first, a few blog posts. I'll separate them so the comments are easier to track, and sprinkle them with photos, just because.

Please check out the interesting exchange over at Ed Suominen's blog -- two men seeking common ground while remaining true to themselves, and that's pretty wonderful.

At the heart of every religion is compassion, and at the heart of compassion is listening. Pema Chodron gives a beautiful talk about what it means to listen to ourselves without judgment or blame, allowing for a response that exists "in the gap between right and wrong." That is the source of compassion for others. Note how different this idea is from "love the sinner, hate the sin." Yet this middle way happens quite naturally by people of all faiths (and none) when they prioritize kind over right.

Being kind to ourselves enlarges our capacity to be kind to others.

I had a challenge last week. After we had settled into our campsite overlooking the lake, a family arrived that I came to think of as the Bickersons. They squabbled about who should carry what, then where to settle, pitching their tent and then lifting it up, like a turtle shell, shuffling it from site to site while disagreeing about the best view. I grew resentful. I tried to listen to my resentment, look at it, sit with it. How irritating they are! What pests! But so are the chipmunks and woodpeckers, right? Why don't I resent them? I wondered if the woodpeckers were bickering, blaming the tree, the bugs, the heat. If the chipmunks were right now lurking in the bushes, eyeing bitterly our closed food bins. This made me happy.

Later that evening, I heard flamenco, beautifully played, sweet and sad enough to melt a brick. I saw Mr. Bickerson bent over his guitar, playing with his whole heart, as his family watched.

What a gift, I thought. Humans are amazing!

(Ed does not accept comments on his blog, but I know he is listening, so feel free to leave them here.)

1 comment:

  1. I read Ed & Keith's dialogue and I noticed how both are good listeners. I have copied an abridged version of Jason Hardin's characteristics of a good Christian listener. Old AP

    1. Good listeners consider a person’s statements in relation to their presuppositions. They are willing to ask the question, “How does this make sense to them?” & genuinely seek an answer to that question in evaluating another person’s opinion.
    2. Good listeners are not hasty in making judgments. They don’t have to categorize everyone & everything immediately. ” Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).
    3. Good listeners pay careful attention to words. They don’t assume that an idea they are hearing is identical to an idea they are already familiar with simply because it has similarities. They respect the complexity of reality and are willing to make fine distinctions & treat each person, statement and idea on its own terms.
    4. Good listeners ask questions. Not to embarrass or attack, but to clarify.
    5. Good listeners are not lazy. They work hard to understand.
    6. Good listeners do not feel threatened by not controlling the conversation. They are comfortable with silence. They give the speaker unthreatened, unhurried space in which to operate while communicating.
    7. Good listeners understand that everyone has different communication styles, & adjust their listening to correspond to the speaker’s communication style. For example, if the speaker is shy, they draw the person out more. If they are talkative, they interject more. They do not take a “one-size-fits-all” approach to listening.
    8. Good listeners interrupt intentionally & gently, rather than habitually & rashly.
    9. Good listeners recall their own subjectivity and finitude as a listener. They make evaluations with the humility that corresponds to seeing parts, not the whole. They consider the angle & point of view from which they are listening.
    10. Good listeners are willing to listen to something even if it’s hard to hear. They don’t stop listening as soon as they become offended by the speaker.
    11. Good listeners do not unreasonably question the motives of the speaker. They make a good faith assumption that, all other factors being equal, the speaker is trying to communicate clearly and truthfully.
    12. Good listeners don’t equate listening with agreeing. Good listeners understand that careful listening equips you to disagree well, because by listening you understand more clearly what it is that you disagree with.
    13. Good listeners are not simply waiting to talk again when someone else is speaking. They value the contributions of other people.
    14. Good listeners remember that you can learn from anyone. They realize that human subjectivity & fallenness is such that the most learned person can still learn from a little child.
    15. Good listeners love people. They understand that listening is connected to every other aspect of relationships. They understand that there is simply no substitute for genuine affection for other people.
    16. Good listeners pay attention to nonverbal communication without discounting verbal communication.
    17. Good listeners are willing to speak. They understand that the speaker may need them to communicate in order to further the conversation.
    18. Good listeners understand that every act of communication takes place in a context or setting.
    19. Good listeners are willing to stop listening to something that is perverse, wicked, or dangerously foolish. They understand that there are some things that should not even be listened to. They know when to draw the line.
    20. Good listeners understand how important listening is to a relationship. They don’t assume or underestimate the value of listening; they value and seek to cultivate good listening skills.