Living in an Unfinished World

The world is unfinished. With this in mind, as a teacher, as a leader, as a learner, how do you want to be in the world? What is the story that you will enact? To be trite, the only constant is change. Change seems to come faster and faster no doubt, and especially when thinking about new knowledge and technology, including, but not limited to communication and social organization—social media. It seems this change happens faster than we can discern and then predict the impact of that change or innovation.

What are the core questions and concepts to be understood to be able to undertake that discernment? Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could communicate openly and freely with one another to build community based on shared experiences? This requires the ability to have empathy and understand when/what it feels like to be disconnected.

I read a piece by Ross Douthat in the New York Times yesterday. I was intrigued by this title: How Being Sick Changed My Health Care Views. Knowing from previous columns he’s a staunch conservative and also knowing that he had a long bout with an undiagnosed tick-borne disease, I was curious. His views shifted a little to the left as he expressed empathy for those without any or with limited health care after his experience of going from specialist to specialist to get a diagnosis and therapy. What struck me however is that it took a personal experience for him to have empathy for others who struggle with no or inadequate health coverage in a time of health crisis—and that during that time, the patient cannot be a dispassionate “consumer” of a service—but is struggling to survive, grasping at anything that will offer relief and doing so at the mercy of a cumbersome networking maze of rules and roadblocks.

What accounts for this lack of empathy? Must many of us have first-hand experience with an issue to empathize? Why can some more readily walk in another’s shoes than others? Is it due to a lack of connection?

Then, how might I foster such connections? Conversely, what might I be doing in personal relationships and professional responsibilities that might inadvertently or (shudder to think) purposefully break or block meaningful connection?

Maybe I should think of it as entering an ongoing conversation with others and the world around me. How do we do this with our peers, family, colleagues, students (as a teacher) so that we can collaboratively explore and write our story while also understanding and helping those around me write theirs? In so doing, might that foster connection and allow for the development of empathy toward one another?

We make our world as we try and make sense of it. We make the road by walking it. This week there’s been a lot of quoting of Martin Luther King. One quote often highlighted is “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” However, we must keep in mind that it doesn’t bend itself.

Here’s ridiculously hopeful song with a simple idea.

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