My Friend Rhonda and I have known each other since seventh grade homeroom. If you need a measure, that’s almost 40 years. There are few who have traveled so far with me, not many who know my story better…and no one who could be more my opposite.
Rhonda and I stand pretty firmly at opposing ends of the playing field of national discourse these days. Where I turn left, she veers right; where she sees red, I see a sea of blue; and while she prays for my soul, I light incense for hers.
Amazingly, though, we are able to step easily to common ground — to our love of nature, to our desire to lead creative lives, to our empathy for one another as we travel on this journey together. We share a genuine and hard-won affection, and no matter the storms we weather, she is and always will be my Friend.
I thought about Rhonda last Monday morning, when a weekend’s worth of red and blue vitriol lined up on my Facebook timeline. Friends brandishing opinions, and in the flourish calling Friends stupid, asses, ignorant, morons. The Friends with whom I share daily gratitudes and photos of my nephew, the Friends who I support and encourage with smiley faces and thumbs-up, the Friends who are clients and colleagues — all of us stirring the pot of hatred that is on its ways to boiling over if we don’t STOP.
It suddenly occurred to me that if I deleted all of the Friends who cursed me on Monday morning, who insulted me or made me angry, who didn’t agree with my politics or my religion, that I would be heading down a very treacherous path. A path that has nothing to do with Friendship, and everything to do with Division.
It also occurred to me that I am not innocent in this conflict. I may think my flag-waving is constructive and well-informed. But so do some of the loudest pontificators.
Our Friends who unfurl pink flags, yellow flags, camouflage flags, rainbow flags, and good old American flags all think they are right. We all think we’re taking a stand, but we’re really just taking a stab — a passive-aggressive stab at our Friends, at our neighbors, at our collective community who may or may not agree with us.
It’s not about the flags, really. Or the philosophy behind the flags we wave — we all have our reasons for our beliefs. It’s about the language we use, and the hard lines we draw in the sand for one another.
The truth is, the world is not just black or white. It’s not just red or blue. It’s all of that. It’s as full of color and contrast and compromise as the conversations Rhonda and I share on our walks in the woods.
But she and I did not come to our détente overnight. It took years of patience, respect, and an understanding that we are Friends first and foremost.
Even now, it means listening, and practicing empathy. It means checking how we speak with one another, watching the words we use. It’s a constant effort to find where we agree, and loving each other in that space — being Friends on the pages of that book.
I’ve been wrestling with this — and this post — for a while. There is no easy solution. But there has to be some solution, because there is no going back from where we are heading, my Friends. And that is what scared me most of all last Monday.
It’s time for some changes. And it has to start here — with me. I certainly can’t change this crazy world we live in. I can only change myself.
I invite you to join me — let’s stop pointing fingers at each other, let’s find some common ground, let’s treat each other like Friends.
“If you as an individual desire to destroy hate, then you as an individual must cease hating. To destroy hate, you must dissociate yourself from hate in all its gross and subtle forms, and so long as you are caught up in it you are part of that world of ignorance and fear. ”
— J. Krishnamurti
IMAGE: What a Human Being Is, Hilma af Klint
QUOTE: Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) and is regarded as one of the greatest philosophical and spiritual figures of the twentieth century. Krishnamurti claimed no allegiance to any caste, nationality or religion and was bound by no tradition. His purpose was to set humankind unconditionally free from the destructive limitations of conditioned mind. For more information, please see J. Krishnamurti Online or the Krishnamurti Foundation of America.