No Distance Between Us
Photo By: Aarón Blanco Tejedor
One of the conversations I have been exploring and reflecting on, is a person’s commitment to global transformation. Global transformation inherently implies a need for listening to the logic of other cultures, a deep respect for the different points of view of others. Given the way each of us views life, given our varied pasts and what we have made them mean, given our years of education and whatever cultural exposures we each uniquely have had, each one of us is in effect, a different culture.
What would happen to communication if we actually listened to one another as if we were each a different culture, replete with our own values and ways of operating that were grounded in a logic perhaps distinct to ourselves, but nevertheless valid and understandable? Communication would have the possibility of effortlessly becoming dialogue: more listening than speaking.
In 1988 I traveled to Egypt with a small group of people with whom I had been studying for the ministry for some time. We hired a boat, a small Egyptian doma, which we sailed down the Nile River with our warm and wonderful guide, Mohammed. We of course approached every conversation with a depth of respect born of the humility that we did not know the culture, the terrain, the language, and we relied upon his expertise not only for cultural information but in reality for our very safety.
One particularly beautiful evening as our little boat floated down the river, some of us lay on our backs looking up at the breathtaking night sky of below-the-equator constellations. As Mohammed and I conversed, our conversation turned to our children, and the story unfolded of his recent divorce and the decision of his ex-wife to forbid him to see his 2-year-old son. At the time, I was also divorced and my ex-husband forbade my children to speak with me when they were staying with him. Suddenly, Mohammed and I had no distance between us, no cultural barrier, no problem understanding each other despite his self-conscious English and my non-existent Egyptian. Simply parents, we were bonded through shared heartache and love for our children.
It remains a precious moment in my life experience and reminds me of the common thread that runs through our humanity, as well as the transformational impact of listening for that relatedness, rather than being seduced by difference. Compassion, familiarity, empathy, intimacy – all available from listening for and from what we didn’t know.
This article is an excerpt of a larger body of work, The Creative Process: A Portal to ‘Not-Knowing,’ which you can read HERE.