They are complicated. They often call for rational answers to irrational questions. They are as multifaceted as the people around whom they revolve.
But we don’t like complicated.
We are hardwired to simplify, to look for the familiar and extrapolate an entire truth from small bits of facts. This instinct keeps us alive in situations that demand quick decision making. Similarly, we as Americans are proud of our ingenuity; it is this ability to always be fixing, innovating and providing solutions that makes us who we are.
But this rush to fix and solve and know also cripples us in so many ways.
It leads to excess, bloated codes, and a nation of people so intent on moving forward that we refuse to learn from the past. More than that, we seem completely incapable of understanding.
Seek first to understand.
No argument can be resolved, no relationship healed, and no answers forged until the root of it all is first understood. You have no hope of swaying another’s opinion if you can’t empathize with where they currently stand. Likewise, you have no chance of addressing the plight of a society if you can only hear the half that sounds like you.
In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, I am shocked by all the certainty I see on Facebook and Twitter; the mass murder of children leaves me certain of nothing and questioning everything.
Yes, I question the legality of certain weapons. My personal experience and prejudices flare and I want to go door to door ridding at least my neighborhood of any potential harm to my children. But I think, too, of my brother-in-law and one of my best friends and her husband, people whom I admire and love – and who happen to really love guns. I know they would recoil at my fantasies of a gun-free nation, and so I try to reign in my knee-jerk reaction long enough to admit that I just don’t get it.
Why can’t more of us admit that we don’t get it?
How can so many people be so confident that they have the one solution to a complicated problem?
And yes, it is complicated, because the Second Amendment was meant to ensure that our own armies could not oppress us, and that’s not a possibility we can just ignore because we are now terrified of madmen.
We can’t walk away from complicated problems, but neither can we bully our way to solutions. We have to start listening. All of us. We have to wrap our heads around the idea that there are other perspectives to consider, that our neighbors are not morons.
I admit that is not always easy. I read some things and think there is no way a sane, rational, intelligent human being can actually believe the words on the screen. I struggle to comprehend positions that are far, far away from mine.
However, the bulk of us, I believe, are good people with good ideas and insights. We are, I think, more or less parts of the same whole, and we are capable of creating brilliant solutions.
But first, we must quiet our own voices and listen to those around us. We must seek to understand. It’s the only way out of the dark.