Monday, July 25, 2011

Courage and Clarity

I've started reading Joe Gerstandt's blog and following him on Twitter. If you don't, you should.

On of his recent blog posts really engaged my thinking engine. It's called Dancing in the Intersection, and it's about diversity of thought and how people, even people who think diversity of thought is a good thing, shy away from the tension it naturally creates.

Tension is much easier to avoid than embrace. It does not require any hatred or bigotry to avoid the tension of difference, it only requires aspirations of some order and some comfort and some simplicity. Avoiding difference is the path of least resistance…it is where the river of human nature flows naturally, without effort, without conviction, without intention. It is the default.

But Joe has a different take on the tension one finds at the intersection of thoughts, ideas and beliefs. He says we should wade into it. We should seek it out and embrace it because, although the tension can birth conflict and dysfunction, it can also birth learning and creation. The intersection, he says, is the church of possibility, the runway where tomorrow touches down first.

And to do this, he further counsels, requires two things.

Wading into the tension of the intersection requires courage and it requires clarity regarding benefits and challenges associated with the intersection.

So let me reflect.

It requires courage. Do I have that? You bet. I have it in spades. With every passing day, it seems, I have more and more courage, stemming from the realization that there are a finite number of days ahead, and that if I'm going to make a difference in this world, I need to take greater responsibility for it. I need to stand up and make it happen.

But it also requires clarity. Do I have that? I'll be honest. No. I sure don't. When faced with a concept like clarity, I find myself hiding behind a lot of questions. Clarity? About what? About what needs to be done? About what will make things better? About what will solve the problem? I don't have that kind of clarity, and don't think I ever will. Does anyone? Really? In my experience, people who go into the intersection with that kind of clarity just wind up crashing into other people, hurting themselves or others in the process.

In fact, isn't that what the intersection is for? Finding a new kind of clarity that transcends your own thoughts, ideas and beliefs?

Picture it. If we’re all driving cars that will potentially collide in the intersection, we may want to convince ourselves that we have clarity, that our halogen high beams give us the ability to see the way forward clearly. How else can we survive the conflicts that lie ahead?

But aren’t we only seeing the pavement immediately in front of us? In high detail, perhaps, but it's only one small section of all possible roads leading to the intersection. In some cases, in fact, this focus doesn't even allow us to see the intersection coming. Sometimes, conflict surprises us. We turn a blind corner and are suddenly threatened by other cars approaching from different directions, each with their own drivers, headlights focused on a different set of thoughts, ideas and beliefs.

That's why it takes courage to enter the intersection. If you just want to barrel through, keep your high beams on and your foot on the accelerator. You'll make it, and then you can get back on the road you've been traveling. But if you want clarity, the clarity that comes from the intersection, you're better served by turning your headlights off and looking at the problem from different perspectives.

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