We've talked here before about the importance of finding common ground. It seems particularly important these days when that which divides us has been underscored far more than that which unites us. The political rhetoric and the media's use of polarism to boost ratings doesn't help us bridge the divide as we try to build connections.
In his book A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life, educator and author Parker J. Palmer speaks of creating "circles of trust" (safe spaces where we can talk honestly and openly). He says one condition for such circles is the "creation of common ground on which people of diverse beliefs can explore issues of the inner life." Further, he says that "as we create open ground that welcomes diversity, we cannot allow people to wander aimlessly. The soul wants hospitality, but it also wants honesty, wants to engage challenging questions that we would prefer to avoid. How can we keep the circle open to diverse views while keeping it focused on difficult truths?"
Palmer uses the seasons as a metaphor for framing such explorations. In the fall, nature drops and scatters seeds. We, too, might think about the "seed of true self," as Palmer calls it. And in winter, we think about dormancy and what it might mean to name what's dead in us and how we might "winter through." He calls spring "the season of surprise" and invites us to look at the "both/ands" of life. Summer, of course, is a season of abundance and first harvest. He says it's a time to ask, "Whom is this meant to feed? Where am I called to give my gifts?"
Palmer's words and his metaphors offer much as we think about finding common ground. I highly recommend this book, in fact, as we work toward better listening and building bridges rather than fences.
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