Of Bridges, Filters, and Focus

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The concept of bridging divides has been much in my mind since the recent election. And yesterday, after the lengthiest exercise I have yet engaged in in trying to bridge divides — specifically, asking my brother- and sister-in-law why they voted as they did and being completely bewildered, bemused, and befuddled by their responses, based as they were in misinformation and utter conviction — I pessimistically decided that the divides are too vast: there are no bridges that can be built and we must just coexist, as Somerset Maugham wrote:

We seek pitifully to convey to others the treasures of our heart, but they have not the power to accept them, and so we go lonely, side by side but not together, unable to know our fellows and unknown by them.

But then I had the strangest dream last night. The telephone rang, and it was Ron Bernier, my old friend from college. Ron’s voice was faint but warm, and he had much to tell me. Since Ron has been dead for eight years, this was not surprising: we were trying to bridge the greatest divide there is.

I had trouble understanding what he was saying, but then we realized the problem. All his words contained my conversation in them. So we had to fix a template of these and subtract out my words: what was left was what he was trying to say.

We are pasting up a lot of French and Spanish documents these past several days, using the English as the base and then overlaying with the new language. Sometimes there are parts left over that don’t match up. So I get what reality underlies the dream. And I guess I could chalk up the dream to work overload and the generation of too many instances of using the document compare feature in Word.

Or maybe not. Maybe it’s actually quite a profound message. Maybe we need to stop listening to our own thoughts in the echo chambers of our news streams, our chats with friends; stop assuming we know what is being said to us because it matches up so precisely with the words in our head. Maybe we need to really listen hard, as I had to with Ron, really focus.

Will it help? I don’t know. But it’s all I have right now, so I intend to try to truly listen and to hear, filtering out my own prejudices and seeing what is left…

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2 thoughts on “Of Bridges, Filters, and Focus

  1. Karen Kovacs

    Here’s the thing. We are expected to accept a morally demented, gleefully sexist, sour-souled orange buffoon with zero political experience and apparently precious little political interest even (aside from how much $ he can reap) as the next President of the United States. I am unable to do so. I DO understand people being frustrated and scared to the point of voting for a man they’ve revered for decades (he was given a standing ovation – for no reason other than his wealth- by Oprah’s audience when he walked across the stage as her guest about ten years ago). But I am still dumbfounded that he made it past the primaries. It will take at least 4 years for the shock of his win to wear off. By then someone else will be President Elect (Barney, for example. At least he’s a better color. Plus he’s a kindly chap.)

    Yesterday at the Mohave Air and Space Port (Mohave, Ca), I met two very likeable and friendly former (civilian) pilots in their 70s who, during the course of our (non-political) conversation, revealed that they voted for The Orange One. (TOO). The more gregarious of the two said that TOO will be the “best damn man in the White House that this country has ever had!” I said (feigning only a mild skepticism to hide my incredulity, the better to hear his reasoning), “You really think so? I suppose all we can do is wait and see…but he isn’t a very nice human being. Whether or not you agree with his politics, President Obama strikes me as being a genuinely kind human being.” He said, “We don’t need a nice president! We need someone who will DO something! America is a country that DOES things! We were first on the moon!” After listing a few other space-related achievements, he added that the “current president is the dumbest president we’ve ever had.” I begged to differ and pointed out that there’s no denying that regardless their view on the president’s policies, he’s extremely intelligent. He conceded, “Oh, well, yeah, he’s got the gift of gab.” After a moment he said, “We’re still cowboys in this country. People still walk around with guns.” (The other pilot nodded strong agreement.)Oddly, he concluded his approval of TOO by saying that he was glad Hillary didn’t win, because “she’s ugly!” and the best thing about having TOO in the White House will be that “he has a good looking wife.”
    (I kid you not.)

    These are but a few excerpts from the conversation. I hasten to point out that I genuinely enjoyed talking with the pilots; mostly we chatted about airplanes & spacecraft and actors who starred in movies about them. (Harrison Ford, Aldo a pilot, was at the air/space port a few months ago). And they both laughed about having children who are contemptuous of TOO.

    I share this interaction simply because it’s a candid viewpoint from fellow citizens/voters.

    We all have more in common with one another than is sometimes obvious…(with some appalling exceptions, such as sociopaths, neo-Nazis, etc.). And my faith is based on Agape- God’s unconditional love & mercy, which we were created to extend to all, including TOO.

    But while my faith (non-denominational Christian) also requires that I “render unto Caesar that which is his due,” I have not yet gotten to the point of acknowledging let alone accepting TOO as the next Caesar. That is one bridge that will sink into a bog if I ever attempt to cross it.

    • Nita Congress

      Your conversation was certainly, well, interesting… Your attitude is noble — trying to reach out, trying to understand, trying not to judge. Not sure what else we can do.

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