Saturday, November 5, 2016

Conversation to Arrive At Truth

Teaching about the history of voting and elections, turned out much better than I had worried about. No word-fistfights! Just two more days and we'll end with an election party while watching the returns on live internet stations. I'll bring my 4th of July flag buntings and drape them around the table and across the white board. We will be celebrating the end of an election as much as the success (or un-success) of the candidates.

In the midst of our investigations and learning, it was a class rule that everyone had to stay objective and not express strong affinity for one candidate or another. Did that happen? As likely as a politician not telling a ______.

We did have one two emotional moments. A student born in America, but born to Mexican-born parents, had an emotional plea because of the relatives she loves who cannot come to America.  Another young man couldn't control his vehement dislike towards one of the candidates; but I'm proud of them--the vituperative rhetoric stayed outside the sacred walls of learning.

Because no one learns when words get nasty.

The true purpose of a Socratic discussion or an enlightening debate comes when both parties want to arrive at the truth. Truth may still be reached even when parties have different viewpoints--if they are both intent on truth.

The requirements of a conversation searching for truth, always take me back to a Swiss chalet high on the Axalp.

I was sitting next to my sister and we were stuck in the middle of a table resembling more of a restaurant booth. The surrounding conversation was in German, which neither of us spoke (what a shame), and so we had our own conversation. The discussion was going well until my sister threw a curve ball, "You know, spiritually I am up here," she held her hand high above her head, "and you are down here." Yes, you imagined it correctly--her hand for me was below the table.

In the split second I had to answer, a wave of responses ran through my head.

Wow! Should I be insulted? How do I respond? What do I want to happen here? And then another thought ran through my mind that wasn't my own--it came from the goodness of the universe or it was an impression from God: This is no threat to you.

I took a deep breath and spoke calmly to my sister, "I see why you think that."

It diffused the fuse on the bomb. I saw the light of fire leave her eyes. She responded. "And that is why I love you."

So when the student with Mexican relatives cried, the whole room was touched, and their resolve to arrive at truth deepened, and bless them--they came to a truth they could all agree upon.

A student who rarely speaks suggested two alternatives: the first was that we couldn't have open borders, but that we needed to see immigrants as real people with hearts, with desires, with a determination to improve their lives--we have prosperity and abundance to share. "As citizens of America we needed to approach immigration with balance. With a human touch."

The final comment was made by our tearful student who saw the truth in his reasoning and calmly agreed.

How I wish the two of them were on the ballot--maybe someday.