My teacher friends go back to school this week. Each year, when I realize the start of a new school year is just around the corner, I feel a shift that signals the end of summer. I have to tell you, I’m looking forward to the change of pace. I’ve got a few big trips scheduled, and a few exciting announcements to make in the weeks to come, but today I wanted to get you thinking about the next session of Forward, the book club we built to help move the conversation forward.
A couple of weeks ago on Facebook, I shared that I have two books I recommend to anyone who will listen. The first is Jesus and the Disinherited, by Howard Thurman. The second book is called Healing the Heart of Democracy: the Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit, and was written by one of my favorite authors, Parker J. Palmer. It is this second book that I’ve chosen for us to read together, when our book club starts up again in just a few weeks.
Recently, I read an article in the New York Times. In the article, written in 2014, Parker J. Palmer is being interviewed about Healing the Heart of Democracy. You can read the full interview, here. One of the questions Palmer is asked is this: “How do we talk across lines of difference more successfully?” This is Palmer’s response:
Well, here’s a clue from a poem, “The Place Where We Are Right”, by the great Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai: “From the place where we are right/flowers will never grow/in the spring./The place where we are right/is hard and trampled/like a yard./But doubts and loves/dig up the world/like a mole, a plough./And a whisper will be heard in the place/where the ruined/house once stood.”
We can talk across lines by talking about what we love, because a lot of us love the same things: our kids and grandkids, our country, the natural world, the idea that people should be able to get ahead in life. Then we can talk about our doubts, because we all doubt that what we love is being served well. Beginning a conversation with loves and doubts rather than political ideologies opens a new door to dialogue, driven by story-telling rather than political point scoring.
Building Beautiful Dialogue
I’ve been listening to a lot of conversations and watching a lot of news reports about our current election season and, time and time again, what strikes me most is the way we talk to and about one another. I understand the passion behind our convictions, and I have deep respect for all of the differing points of view. I have seen some incredibly moving exchanges between people who have opposing viewpoints. They have treated one another with respect and have built a beautiful dialogue in spite of their differences. I’ve wondered how to help create more of that. I’ve wondered how I might be able to help people find the tools to engage in healthy debate which…well…moves the conversation forward.
I know a lot of people are sincerely grappling with what to do about this presidential election. Many of us are having to examine our deeply held convictions, our faith, our relationships with others, and our role in the public square. As I watch the conversations, it is clear to me that many people are even confronting, perhaps for the very first time in their lives, the intersection of faith, race, culture, class, and gender in light of their conviction. It has been fascinating to watch, and I believe Healing the Heart of Democracy can help smooth out the wrinkles for many who are simply stumped about how to move forward in this election season.
This week, I’ll be sharing a few resources to help us build a framework for reading this book together. Today, consider reading the entire interview with Palmer in the New York Times. Here’s the link again. Also, read the editorial reviews of Healing the Heart of Democracy, here. Even if you’ve already read this book, consider joining the discussion of the book with us together. The more voices, the better. At the end of the week, I’ll be asking about dates for the start of the book club. I’ll have a few choices and would love to get your input in a brief survey which I’ll share on Friday. Then, next week, I’ll announce the start date and the reading plan for our next group of sessions together. I hope you’ll join us. Have you read this book, yet?