Some days I wonder how the human race has managed to survive so long when there seems to be such an immense amount of anger and hatred inside even the most mild-mannered of people. Yesterday I was the reluctant eavesdropper of a conversation about Edward Snowden. ‘Whistleblower’ to one and ‘traitor’ to the other, the conversation generated more heat than light. Indeed, at one point I wondered whether I’d need a tungsten boiler suit to protect myself, so fiery was the debate becoming. It was at that point that I realised neither was actually listening to the other. There was no dialogue, only the statement of opinion; and given that neither appeared to be any more ‘in the know’ than any other consumer of internet/broadcast news, I think ‘opinion’ is the correct word to use. It was an argument without real substance which appeared to leave both men cross and out of sorts.
It also left me wondering how often I act in the same way. Those things I care about, that engage my passions so to say, may be precisely the ones about which I need to do more listening to others. Screaming at someone, whether metaphorically or literally, may be an indicator of how deeply something is felt, but it isn’t an argument and does nothing to advance understanding or agreement. Perhaps we are screaming at each other too much these days. As my mother used often to remind me, God gave us one mouth but two ears. He must have meant something by that.