“We are our choices” – Sarte
A world where everyone has an opinion that can be shared across the country
and the globe in seconds – a byproduct of technology and the Information Age –
is, at its core, a beautiful thing. Being able to hear the voices of different people with
different perspectives to evolve our own is at the crux of our own evolution as
humans. The problem now is that we are not looking to hear and listen to other
perspectives and have civil discourse. Now we spend our time screaming at
each other, not trying to articulate our perspectives for mutual sense-making, but
to tell everyone else, outside of our echo chamber that they are wrong, and
sometimes even evil for having an opposing view. Each side claims the good of
humankind – which means our intent may be good – but each side feels that only
their perspective is the right one. No listening, no thought, no compromise. We
are all pigeonholed, by ourselves or others, into a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. How is this
evolution of a species?
The world is complex, it cannot be neatly divided into binary groups. It can’t even
be divided into a set number of cleanly separated groups. The world is nuanced.
It requires not only deep thought but compassion and empathy. Because of this
complexity, we try to simplify it – providing the simplest and broadest categories
to align with intentionality. We use glib sayings to convince each other that we
must choose sides – sayings like: “you’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall
for anything”, or “if you’re not with us you’re against us”, or “if you are silent, you
are complicit”. These are nothing more than propaganda phrases used to force
us into not thinking, not talking, and not considering anything other than our own
point of view. This does nothing more than vilifying the opposition. Today, it seems
worse than ever – we are being divided by race, by gender, by sexual orientation,
by identity- and we welcome it because it is comfortable, it is easy, and it lets us
listen to our own echo chamber that clearly articulates “we are right, and they are
But were it that simple, no discovery would have ever occurred. If it truly was only
these false binary choices, then all the answers to our universe are simple, it is
either A or B and the answer would be clear (depending on which side you were
on). But the answers aren’t clear. The world has no absolutes, and we should not
be forced into thinking anything else. For if we do, the cost is not just our
humanity, the cost is our future. Without acknowledging the nuances of the world
around us, we will lose the exploration and the discovery. We will lose the things
we have yet to learn or understand. We will cease to grow, develop, and evolve.
Our first step in securing our future is to acknowledge that our sense-making is
not “right” and someone else’s is “wrong”. We are sense-making with different
information, different experiences, and different data, and in truth, they will never be
totally aligned, ever. So, let’s accept that solution development is not as simple
as multiple choice. It’s a complex process of investigation through discussion and
compromise. Compromise so that we all might be a little uncomfortable in the
solution and allow each of us to seek more knowledge to see what we can learn.
Compromise that values people over ideas and ideals allows us to consider that
most of what separates us in opinion is really each side’s desire to take care of
others (and unfortunately, sometimes just ourselves). We need to look at our
own ‘red lines’ and determine whether they are absolute.
So, as we enter the world of others each day, let us not see ourselves or others
in a false binary way. Let us talk and listen, let us think, let us collaborate, and
compromise where we can, and agree to disagree where we cannot. Let us not
vilify others who have different opinions, let us consider them and their thought
process and sense-making. We have the power of choice every day – we can be
divisive, or we can learn to listen, think, compromise, and move forward together.
There are many who don’t want us to do this. They want us to be against each
other. They want us to hate each other, for if we are focused on our fellow
humans, we are not questioning the messages. Both sides of the fringe want us
to be so focused on hating each other because of our differences, that we will
sacrifice the very humanity that draws us all together. Let us not be separated by
others. Let us not relinquish our choices. Let’s make a deliberate decision not to
be divisive, but unifying. Let us grow, develop, and evolve together.
“If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by
what you are. For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained.
Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing.” – Saint Augustine
Read more meditations by LTC (Ret) JC Glick and author, Dr. Alice Atalanta by buying the book on Paperback. You can purchase it here: ‘Meditations of an Army Ranger: A Warrior Philosophy for Everyone.