In episode 10 of National Geographic’s wonderful series “One Strange Rock,” astronaut Chris Hadfield reflects: “One of the biggest changes I noticed within myself as a result of flying in space was that the difference between us and them disappeared. Somehow, going around the world in 92 minutes, over and over again, turned the entire world into one shared place.”
No natural boundaries. That’s a theme all six of the featured astronauts in this program expressed. While most Americans “hold [this truth] to be self-evident,” the political dance our country has been performing over the past few years has demonstrated a very different reality: Whether it’s leaders sowing discord with petulant, vindictive partisanship, or citizens with shortened fuses disowning loved ones over ignited dissensions, we appear to be a nation divided against itself.
Violence comes in many forms, including the weapons of words; and Einstein once suggested that violence can only be defeated by understanding. One powerful way of encouraging understanding as well as mutual well-being is by listening deeply to what the other is communicating rather than first promoting our own agenda. How about, instead of throwing down our gauntlets or “unfriending” those with whom our perspectives clash, we reach out and invite them to coffee to learn about and understand their perspectives? What if, instead of drawing lines in the sand that create unnatural boundaries and division, we challenge ourselves to remember our mutual humanity — and suffering — and our sometimes feeble attempts to simply get our needs met as best we can with the resources currently available to us? This is the environment in which mutual respect, education and transformation become possible. This is how we can come together to right injustices and accomplish great and necessary things instead of destroying ourselves in our own backyards. How about a new chant, first to ourselves in the mirror, and only then to our neighbors and our leaders: Find Common Ground. Wouldn’t casting our vote in this box represents an authentic victory for our entire planet — the common ground — we all call home?