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Underbelly: 10 Things - Conversation

Wendy Kelly
Wendy Kelly
#108 in a series of wild and precious reasons to freely interchange your thoughts or opinions.

  1. TWIL (This Week I Learned)
This week I contemplated conversation.
There were two threads vying for priority this week — creation and conversation. Conversation won out.
At several points during my week, that quote misattributed to Voltaire popped into my head —
“‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,’ was his attitude now.” — Evelyn Beatrice Hall “Friends of Voltaire”
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
an interesting twist — Voltaire’s idea became popular during a time when French society and politics were being influenced by the Wendat people who “saw their society as a confederation created by conscious agreement; agreements open to continual renegotiation.” (The Dawn of Everything) A man named Kandiaronk had visited France and knew the French Jesuits well. A distinct feature of the Wendat culture was that all people were well trained in public discourse. A Jesuit priest who knew Kandiaronk named Father Lallemant said in 1644, “I do not believe that there is any people on earth freer than they…”
My paraphrase of the reason for this, which all comes from the brilliant book The Dawn of Everything, is that they were free in large part because they knew how to discuss, have conversations, and continually renegotiate in a collaborative way.
What I began to notice this week is how out of practice we are. Three (joyous) events stood out for me. First, I invited a new friend to a conversation around a broad topic I am passionate about and wanted to discuss. I was nervous, unsure, a little incredulous that I had done this.
We were both (I think) exhilarated by the end of the conversation and I have a new idea fleshed out.
Second, I invited an old friend to tea and by the end, I feel like we both felt better and were decidedly more optimistic about the state of the world. In any case, we felt more connected and human and alive.
Third, I attended a simple evening of “interchanging thoughts and opinions” and it was both incredibly deep and incredibly silly. I think it’s safe to say that every one of us was anticipatory, a bit nervous, unsure — out of practice. By the end, every single one of us felt more alive, human, connected. There were no “vulnerability hangovers”. We had each given freely some tiny piece of our hearts: a poem, a song, a tradition. We each freely received each gift with both laughter and grace. It. got. easier.
We need to practice being human if we want to become “real” <= (Velveteen Rabbit “real”)
2. Quote
‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,’ was his attitude now. — Evelyn Beatrice Hall, “Friends of Voltaire”
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all
– Joni Mitchell
The two-sided debate, however, falls short when it comes to advancing real solutions. First, the goal of winning points shifts attention away from the far more important goal of solving problems. Second, serious matters are complex and many-sided. Views about them and strategies for solving them resist the tidy array of two opposing columns. And, real problems are highly interconnected. Taking a single position on a single problem pulled from this interconnected context means issues must be simplified. Realities must be flattened. 
Dialogue among people with differing points of view is required to get good thinking done about significant issues. The Greek roots of the term bring together dia (“through” or “by way of”) with logos (“speech” “meaning”). It is through conversation, through both speaking and listening, that learning takes place. And it takes place over time, with patience. — Judith Shapiro, “From Debate to Dialogue”
3. Prompt
Are there ideas today that you see as having two sides?
Why not try this? List a few out. Then, getting quiet and still, look at each idea (gender identity, health decisions, dinner time, religious affiliation, whatever) as if it were a cloud.
I know, a bit weird, but maybe try?
4. Quest
When was the last time you ventured into a conversation where you gently, respectfully, with self control and patience :) entered into a discussion, a conversation, a dialogue with a friend about something you see from a different perspective with the goal of learning?
5. Level-UP / Go Deeper
If you have prepared your compost…
(if you do not know what I mean by “compost”, please listen to my conversation with Marla Estes and Joe Burgo starting at 26:53 where Marla introduces the concept of “compost” as a place of growth we might find ourselves in sometimes (as in, yes it is “s***” but it’s nutritious s*** warm, full of helpful microbes :) that can help you grow if you sit in it long enough. As opposed to “toxic sludge” which is what compost can become if we don’t remember to keep turning it, adding nutritious stuff to it, etc. <= this metaphor *holds*! Compost is also mention in my episode from November 2020 with Lisa Richardson, btw)
…if you have prepared your compost, consider inviting in a friend with whom you think you disagree about something. With the intention to stay there, warm and a bit uncomfortable, as you learn from each other.
6. Video — An introduction to a really interesting organization called Heterodox Academy
Heterodox Academy Exec Director: Who decides which viewpoints are allowed on college campuses
Heterodox Academy Exec Director: Who decides which viewpoints are allowed on college campuses
7. Instagram Post — Kate Bowler actually speaks into my recent blog post on “becoming real” (completely coincidentally, of course!)
Kate Bowler
A Blessing for Becoming Real, from Good Enough.
Now available for Pre-Order.

Blessed are we who are becoming,
who have lived so long
in this strange state we call time
that it shows. We are changing,
and that’s how we know
we are alive.
8. Poem
An American Sunrise - Joy Harjo
9. Hero
Evelyn Beatrice Hall - Wikipedia
10. Connect
Don’t miss out on the other issues by Wendy Kelly
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Wendy Kelly
Wendy Kelly @wendykkelly

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