I hope you have enjoyed this little ‘conspiracy’ as much as I have. It has been lovely to share this space with different voices whose words took me places I would otherwise not have gone. Thanks so much to Bob, Graham, Steve B, Yvonne and Steve P for your thoughtfulness and companionship.
All of which made me think about how we encounter other voices, other thinking. It occured to me that our social-media-shaped brains are increasingly innoculated against other views. Rather than freeing our brains for exploration and encounter, the internet seems to have set us up as oppositional avotars, whose purpose is to find the error in the ways of the other, not to listen and learn. Even when I try to NOT do this – to not engage – my brain still falls into familliar comfortable groves, thrilling to the failure of my intellectual/religious/political enemies…
…who are mostly not enemies at all, just people with a different perspectives, doing their best to make sense of the complex broken world in which we live.
Advent could easily be a version of the same in which we wait only for what we know, from those who are from our tribe. This would certainly be a comfortable experience, but it seems to me that this would not do justice to the radical disruption that always seems to happen wiht the coming of the light.
I was thinking too about the head/heart thing.
Increasingly I appreciate how an encounter with anything that matters is whole-body. In other words, when I am fully engaged, I feel it in my bones, my gristle, my heart. This is a very different kind of engagement than an intellectual titilation, in which I strengthen my own ego by bolstering my sense of intellectual agency.
In my limited experience, these kinds of embodied encounters are typically about two things;
1. Compassion – when we feel deeply drawn to the heart of another
2. Mysticism – when we sense the undefinable mystery that I will call ‘the divine’
Head and heart. I often find it difficult to go beyond the first, but I am getting better at the second.
Yes, your post very much resonates for me!
The realisation that much of the rest of the world thinks very differently to those who live in my own limited social-media version of it.
I found the 2019 General Election result, for example, incredibly depressing (I’m a not-very-active member of the Green Party). So much so that I decided to sit down and talk to people who had voted Conservative – friends suggested some names(!). I eventually met up, separately, with four Tory voters over a beer/glass of red… and it proved to be a fascinating experience. One of the people I met just annoyed me intensely (he just couldn’t get it into his head how anyone could possibly NOT want the Tories in government and that I was clearly wrong in more or less all of my views… and, for example, that the climate crisis was impossible to sort out, so why should WE bother doing anything about it if other countries aren’t bothered). However, dialogue with the other three proved absolutely fascinating… we all tried to appreciate each other’s views (even if we disagreed with them) and, at the end of the day, there was an acknowledgement that, although we had our fundamental differences, there was much that united us. We all agreed that the UK’s political system was broken and needed major reform. I still meet up regularly over a bottle of red(!) with one of them. I know!!
I very much concur with the final sentence of your post: “Head and heart. I often find it difficult to go beyond the first, but I am getting better at the second”. Me too.
Huge thanks for making me focus on Advent this year… it’s been a rewarding journey.
Thanks Steve. I think cross-border conversations are even more important now we are less likely to have them in person than ever – given that our lives are increasingly lived on line. My difficulty is compounded in that I am an introvert who socialises only when compelled to do so, unless with friends. I am so bad at small talk!