A few years ago, my wife and I had the privilege of visiting a monastery in South Africa. Like many monasteries, Mariya uMama weThemba observed the Great Silence from roughly 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. I relish this extended time of silence and was dismayed, when I awoke early one morning, to hear my wife (quietly) chatting at me.
I reminded her that we were in silence. Her response, with that impish twinkle I know so well: â€œI donâ€™t care. Iâ€™m your wife. Iâ€™m going to talk at you anyway.â€ I couldnâ€™t help but crack up (quietly).
Next story: From time to time, I have joined organizations that think big thoughts and do great things. They are actively seeking ways to make a profound difference in the world. And their contribution to the world is well worth the effort. Many times, however, these groups include a realist or twoâ€”someone whose role is to say, â€œIâ€™d like that too, but hereâ€™s how this really worksâ€¦.â€
I love these people. And hereâ€™s why.
On the dreamer-realist scale, I fall squarely on the dreamer side: the people who push for what could be. The realists remind me of what is. I consider silence a higher good; my wife reminds me that other people have other priorities. I love spinning lofty ideas out of not a whole lot; realists remind me that I have to start with the raw material of right here, right now.
What we miss sometimes, I think, is that we need each other.
Too often, dreamers and realists disparage those on the â€œother side.â€ Yet without the realists, the dreamers would, most likely, not make as much progress as they could. Without the dreamers, the realists would, most likely, not reach beyond current realities to envision, and therefore create, breakthrough change.
If they come together with a heart for dialogue, howeverâ€”a heart oriented toward suspending preconceptions, hearing the other, welcoming a deep interplay of ideasâ€”watch out. They could be a force for serious change.
This need for each other extends well beyond realists and dreamers. I see this in my faith tradition. Many Christians, traditionally identified as progressives, stress Godâ€™s concern for the dispossessed and for justiceâ€”Godâ€™s action in the world. Many others, traditionally identified as conservatives, stress the importance of sanctity and the joy of a personal relationship with the Divineâ€”Godâ€™s action in each person.
These emphases often come into conflict. Progressives, for instance, see LGBTQ equality as a justice issue for a dispossessed group of people; conservatives see it as an erosion of godly personal behavior. What if they came together with a heart for dialogueâ€”not tussling over the issue at hand, but listening and probing more deeply to understand, and appreciate, the otherâ€™s deeper beliefs? Both sets of beliefs (if the Christian scriptures are any guide) are close to the heart of God, after all.
With a heart for dialogue, we can dispense with our instinctive hostility and instead approach our adversaries with curiosity. We can be open to hear what they have to offer that we need, and vice versa. In most cases, I truly believe the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts.