If it was easy, life would be a breeze. But it is far from easy. There is no greater maw to swallow men and women, countries, races, creeds, than that which requires us to converse with each other. Lifetimes have been lived avoiding certain subjects, people, situations, all in the name of personal peace. We avoid those who challenge our beliefs, our standards, our morals and ethics for fear of taint. We choose our friends carefully as if we were born to such a luxury. It is our right, after all, in this free country, is it not?
I have learned over the years that whatever I madly, frantically, try to avoid follows me like a shadow. I don’t want to be challenged after all. I want a simple easy life, and yet that is not what I was offered. Those who would challenge me don’t have murder on their minds. I know this now, but my brain is often a fool. Because I feel uncomfortable in a challenging situation, I avoid any further discourse. I leave the space we share for the safety of solitude. But, in doing so, I am learning nothing. This other person has the words, the phrasing, the depth of knowledge on our shared subject and I have run out of all of those. I must counter his or her opinion. The fact that I now cannot, is alarming me horribly and I take this challenge as a personal wounding. I leave the situation hot and flushed, cross and embarassed and I mentally plan safe ground in future encounters, or no ground at all.
But, I am missing something here. I love a good discussion. It’s just the subject matter that must be chosen carefully. No politics, religion or whatever the other one is. What a shame! Do I avoid these subjects just because he or she is of a conflicting opinion? I believe in God, but he doesn’t. So? Are we both out to convert the other; could we not just converse, share our thoughts and beliefs without fear of taint? I don’t mind if he doesn’t believe in God, and he doesn’t mind if I do. What we both mind is that our conversation will elevate to bullying, to all those clever words barracking our ears, the feeling of being trapped and powerless before such empassioned twaddle, for that is what it is most of the time. Our beliefs do define us to a degree, but is nobody allowed to rethink, to develop old ways of thinking into a new and beautiful synergy?
I have watched people fall out with each other over a mere difference of opinion. The danger of this is that each returns home to do two things. One is to re-establish what they already believed in and the second is to build a false image of the other. In short, it is easy for conversation to collapse into a fight, albeit a verbal one but no less aggressive than had one punched the other in the face. Over a cake? Yes, it was, over a cake. 10 years of cold shoulder because the one who didn’t win the prize had noticed a flaw in the winner’s Madeira and said so. Loudly.
We can laugh, but we all do it. Perhaps not over a cake, but a message perhaps, a rumour, those times we say something we can’t back up with evidence, and are accurately challenged. What if we rid ourselves of that fear, those walls of protection we build around our little lives/beliefs/principles/morals? What if we embraced another’s right to their beliefs without being scared we will be taken over? What if we just learned to enjoy the sharing of space and words with another precious human being? Instead of suspicion, we could befriend and learn. We could ask and listen. We could even not respond with our own fixed beliefs.
When a life is done, all that remains is what it meant to others. The impact it made, the legacy it leaves behind. That, and a few bones.