Everything I write is premised on my strongly held belief that in the deep place where the heart resides we are the same. This is not to say we don’t have individual quirks, habits, and opinions that set us on vastly divergent paths. That’s a good thing.
As hard as it is for me to believe, there are those among us who don’t like dogs. Even though I can’t imagine how such a thing is possible, I accept it. I don’t belittle a person for their pet preference. I’ve been known to kiss a bovine or two in my day. All four of my children love cats, me, not so much. There might have been a little lighthearted teasing about their affinity for the lesser pet. Still, there were plenty of cats around for the kids to love. Some of us are horse people, some cow folk, others appreciate both. And right this minute, it is still okay to have an animal preference. Stay tuned it could change.
Our likes and dislikes, opinions, views and preferences are part of what makes us so wonderfully unique. A celebration not censure is in order when we stumble upon whatever our differences. Over the past decade and some, the more others don’t think like us contempt has begun to follow. Though it may have appeared as such the last election cycle didn’t start the idea that our fellow Americans are worthless unless they agreed with us!
The political pluralism feeding the contempt for the other is based on fear. Fear became all too real for us as we stared in horror while the Twin Towers imploded right before our eyes. Until that point we had allowed ourselves to believe distance made us immune to attack. The once proud home of the free morphed on the crystalline blue September day to a land full of fear. On that day, people who don’t mirror our way magicked into the other. All we needed to bring us to this present moment in time where anyone who didn’t vote like me, think like me or view things my way are contemptible, worthy of my derision and scorn was the anonymity of social media fueled by the terror of realizing there is no place safe.
Granted politics is a far sight weightier subject than pet preference. But wait, is it? Some people, I suspect, put more thought into what their next pet is going to be than for whom they are casting a ballot. Or at least they did, up to this past presidential election where our apathy turned to hate. The contempt blowing around the neighborhoods these days like pollen is choking the greatness out of us as a people.
Arthur Brooks the president of the American Enterprise Institute – a conservative public policy think tank that strives to create a safer world by safeguarding human dignity while expanding human potential- shared a lesson from the Dalai Lama. When Mr. Brooks asked about overcoming the contemptuous political polarization the Dalai Lama answered, “Practice warm-heartedness.”
Like almost every lesson, the holy man gives at first blush the task makes complete sense and sounds easy enough, right? Every time a little contemptible behavior or speech comes your way meet the behavior with the equivalent of a hug. Hey, no biggie, in my sleep! Before trying to practice it maybe we should look at what warm-heartedness is.
Merriam-Webster defines the word as marked by ready affection, cordiality, generosity, or sympathy. Which brings me round to those pets. You know the warm fuzzy when you come home to the wagging tail, the soft meow, moo, or whinny. If you aren’t a pet person it’s when you see a dear friend, or a stranger has practiced a random act of kindness on you. We all have an idea of what the goal feels like, yes?
Now all we need to do is get to practicing. This is going to take some kind of practice too. Also a little creativity will come in handy right about now. Imagine your tail thumping against the wall or rubbing your back between ankles. Better yet, try (in your imagination) lowing or nickering your warm-heartedness to the guy that just made a real bone-headed comment that makes your blood boil. Remember to start out small—a very important first step! Don’t take on health care or any of the big issues of the day. At first we need to try a little tenderness with our spouse, children, housemates, or coworkers on the little things. With some diligence, we can expand outside of our homes to our neighborhoods. You get the idea.
Hey, I’m not saying this is anything close to easy but a little change toward more generosity of spirit has got to be better than what we have going on now. Don’t you think?