Now, Let’s Sit & Talk about This for a Moment

Photo: Long Road 1After the flood of mindless vitriol in our American political scene—yes, an outpouring from all sides and hardly touched by facts and logic or by mere civility as everyone descends to defensive and angry namecalling—I am reminded that this is an age-old problem.

“Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.” – Carl Sagan, astronomer and author (1934-1996).Photo: Long Road 2

More importantly, I recognize that we would not now exist, certainly not as a federation of states we call a nation, but possibly not even as the chaotic, argumentative, and colorful mass of humanity we are, if there weren’t some among us who occasionally do sit down at the same table and work to reason out the complexities that try us all. Only then can anyone come to an agreement that, while it may be deeply imperfect at best, is still genuinely aimed at the longer-term ideal of growing gradually, of improving until it offers a possibility for better health, education, safety, opportunity, and well-being for all, not just for the privileged or noisy few. I hope that the antagonistic tenor of recent times can be put behind us in favor of work and conversation dedicated to nobler causes than self-interest and fear. I hope that we can let go of redefining hot-button words to suit our mood-of-the-moment and that we can reflect on how our own attitudes and imperfections, ignorance of the larger picture or of other people’s experiences, and our own prejudices and deeply held convictions can stand in the way of simply living together. It doesn’t have to mean giving up principles or changing hard-won beliefs if we will honestly examine our shared needs and our commonalities with equal fervor and attempt to find the best ways to uphold and accommodate all of them.

I’m tired of living in a place that could be one of the few on earth these days that’s not an actual war zone, yet feels as though we are all embattled on a daily basis. If even a modest number of us spent the energy we currently waste on perpetual shadowboxing with real-or-imagined enemies and evils instead on reasoning out positive change and growth in ourselves and our communities, what a different atmosphere we’d have. I, for one, am ready to commit to turning down the volume of my critiques, and persevering in sharing what I have that can give others respite, or hope, or a moment of beauty, no matter how small it may be, instead of wallowing in anyone’s bitterness and despair any longer.Photo: Long Road 3

28 thoughts on “Now, Let’s Sit & Talk about This for a Moment

    • You and me both, dear T. We have collectively painted ourselves into some mighty tight corners these days. But we’re not the first generation to think everyone/everything has gone to hell in a handbasket, either. Maybe we’ll prove ourselves capable of rising above all of this!

  1. Well said.
    Civil discourse – a real goal. And a skill that used to be so common.
    When the world/country is too big and worrisome, maybe try local- on your block, your neighborhood, then your community – if everyone just helped a little – with little things – eventually it would all overlap. Real improvements and progress. Little steps make people feel better than wringing hands over the giant problems of the big world.

    • As a friend noted recently, it seems that the common-as-dirt Civics classes we once had to struggle through in US high schools have generally disappeared into the mists of time. Do people even know what the word means anymore? I’m not certain. All I *do* know is that we can’t keep saying and doing the same stupid stuff over and over and expecting a better outcome. Better to stand alone, small as we are, against such imbecility than to let it undo us all.

  2. Very prescient Sagan. I came across a Hannah Arendt quote recently in which she said that the problem was not that we couldn’t tell what was true and what was false, but that we feel as if the difference between them doesn’t matter. A friend of mine puts this down to the growth of reality TV, in which we know it’s set up but we relate to it as if it were truth, and it actually becomes our truth. It’s the same with people’s following of celebrities and all the speculation and media hype around them. “Reflecting”, to use your word, is hard. Overcoming your own prejudices is hard. I hate the choices voters are making these days, but like it or not I have to tell myself that they have just as much right as I do to shape the world the way they want it.
    To put things into perspective, we’ve recently been re-watching The Hollow Crown, and there’s no doubt the people have much more power than they used to, and that’s a good thing.

    • Nailed it. The whole of our quotidian lives seems to be ebbing ever more toward the ‘doesn’t matter’ attitude, and if we let that rule us, then obviously WE don’t matter, either, and I for one am not happy to bow to that sentence just yet. If I say I’m not satisfied with the way things are, then I had better pull up my socks and work for change, or I’m no better than the Doesn’t Matter gang.

      • Day made. Thank you too! I guess we have to remember that life happens and thats okay. In my heart I’d love to write more posts and read others and comment, and sometimes making room for everything can be difficult. I’ve been working on my home so much with painting and building and all the things… you know what I mean?! And today my husband called telling me he is in the hospital. He was side swiped by a woman who didn’t check her blind spot. He had broken ribs and what I call a miracle as he was riding his motorcycle. I am reading blogs to keep my mind moving! He’s in California and I’m in Tennessee. Your words brighten my heart. And I thank you again! It can only go up from here! Hugs to you sweet lady! 💖💫🎉

  3. Good morning dear Kathryn….Beautifully expressed….thank you so much for bringing reason to the table. I, like you, plan to focus on doing the very best I can to make a small difference…. The Carl Sagan quote is extraordinary….thank you again for reminding me of it. I wish you a day filled with love, joy, peace and creativity…Janet. xxx

    • The sagacious Sagan was hardly alone in seeing the future with such clarity, but he spoke it so much better than most. I’m afraid I see a certain richly Dickensian element in our present attitudes and actions, and while Mr. Dickens was equally eloquent and eminently readable, it frightens me to see such venerable fiction reviving as present reality, so I am determined to try to do and be my own little bit better, if at all possible! I return your wishes with gratitude that you continue to be a shining star against the darker backdrop, and I will try to join you in that enlightened attitude. Much love!
      Kath

  4. Thank you Kathryn for your well-stated post encouraging us to both work for the change we want and be willing to sit, listen and talk with each other. I’m happy to join you at the table.
    blessings, Brad

  5. I have to tell you, this post was magical for me, and I agreed so completely, that I had to Repost on Facebook as a tonic for all the negativity and anger being released there. Many many thanks for your words!

    • Thank *you* for your generosity! I know there are a lot of us out here aching to be more positive, more productive, more peaceful—and perhaps it takes a kick in the pants from a long slide into incivility to motivate us to stand up for simple kindness and thoughtful discussion. Ranting never changed anybody’s mind, and name-calling only encourages us to think of others and their ideas as inferior, which in the wonderful absurdity of real life only plays out to prove that *we’re* the fools.

      I’m so pleased you came by and introduced yourself—now I’ve found your blog and Etsy shop as well, and look forward to exploring both extensively!

      Best,
      Kathryn (who went by Kathy, too, until years ago when I was surrounded by so many classmates with the same excellent name that I just had to embrace the small difference of using my full name!) 😀

  6. Thank you very much for your blog! I think the exquisite cloud pictures illustrated your resolutions beautifully. I am now following your posts, and look forward to more. Thank you very much for your heart-warming comments on my guest post for the marvellous kitchensgarden blog! Very best wishes, Alison (Brackenbury) http://www.alisonbrackenbury.co.uk

    • You are so generous! I deeply appreciate your visit here and all the more, your guest post for Celi. She, as much as anyone I know, cultivates community and thoughtful discourse, and it’s that very gift that has brought us together here. What hope that gives me! I look forward to further visits at your blog to enjoy your good company and insights.
      Warmest regards,
      Kathryn

    • I think everybody’s sort of fallen into a morass of self-righteousness on all sides, and that doesn’t leave any room for dialog or learning. I’ve not *quite* given up hope, but most of the time it strikes me as healthiest to stay far, far away from the noise and just tend to happier and kinder thoughts and actions until (if ever!) I can face the fray. Hugs to you, my beautiful friend!!
      xoxo,
      Kathryn

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