The concept of Story is one I've been contemplating for at least a year. It began at a time when I was brought to the point where I had to give a close look at my own Story, and how I was going to share it.
In the time since, I've read and listened to "debates" to no end. We call them "debates", but they don't resemble true debate at all. True debate is measured, calm, well-researched, and deliberate. What we have instead, coming from all sides, are name-calling, belittlement, anger, resentment, hatred, malice, insults, curses, and every imaginable wish of hellish fate you can imagine. Instead of having the power to persuade, all it has is the power to prove is who can shout the loudest and longest, like some playground contest amongst preschoolers. And the second any of us think we are immune to it, we get dragged into it. And I fully own up to the fact that I get dragged into it--this is not about me pontificating; rather, it's as much a polemic against myself as anything.
We are losing sight of our mutual humanity. And when we do that, we quit seeing each other as fellow human beings, but as abstractions. It is far, far easier, to go to war against an abstraction (why do you think they calm them "casualties" and "collateral damage", rather than "deaths"?), to oppress an abstraction, to take rights from an abstraction, than to do any of these things against a fellow human, who shares your breath and your DNA and your heartbeat. And if we can do all these things against abstractions, if the world is nothing but abstractions and a small number that we call "us", there's nothing that is keeping us from bombing those we label "them" to smithereens. We should just drop the nukes and call it a day.
However, I do not believe we need to do that.
There is something that I notice in this whole process of abstracting human beings. It is the need to attach a label to another human being, so that we can group human beings together who share a label, since it is easier to make abstract a group than an individual. We call each other "liberal", "conservative", "gay", "straight", "Christian", "Muslim", "American", "Chinese", on and on and on it goes. You can never run out of the labels you can attach to a fellow human being, and yet it seems the "label" we avoid most these days is "fellow human being".
It seems sometimes that we are hardwired to think of each other in terms of our differences rather than our similarities. This may be the case. But we also have amazing minds that can accomplish feats that they "shouldn't" be able to. I figured that if labels--a simplification and abstraction of our differences-- are helping to speed the destruction of our species, what then are our similarities? So I thought long and hard about what it is that every human being has in common with each other.
I came up with only one thing. It's not our genetics (for example, not all human beings have 46 chromosomes). It's not our physical composition. It's certainly not the way we look, dress, think, or believe.
The only thing I could come up with that all human beings share is Story.
By Story, I mean the personal narrative that each of us carries. It is the unique path that has brought each of us to where we are. It is the tale of our triumphs and tragedies, our defining moments and mundane moments, the things that shaped our decisions, beliefs, and character. Not only is Story the only thing that we all share, but, in a very real sense, it is the only thing that any of us has. You can lose your job, your home, your possessions, your family and friends, you can lose absolutely everything--but no-one and nothing can take away your Story.
So, if engaging each other in labelling and pseudo-debate is not only accomplishing nothing good, but accomplishing a lot of very bad things, what would the opposite look like? I believe it would be the sharing of our Story with each other.
Now, it is a very easy thing for me to share my Story with someone who closely identifies with me, who shares my "labels". The trick--for all of us--is to learn to transcend our boundaries in our sharing, to start seeing each other as fellow human beings. Of course, there appears to be an inherent chicken-and-egg failing to this reasoning, yet I maintain that it can--and must, for our species's sake-- start somewhere.
And so, I am working hard not to engage in debate but to share Story. And I fail. A lot. But to keep trying in hopes of success is all I can do. And I know that I can't force anyone to share Story with me. But what I do know is that I'm not responsible for what others do, only what I do. And if I have the option of choosing actions that make the world a worse place, and the world a better place, then I am going to do the latter.
I am one of the poorest persuaders I know. It is not my forte. All I can do is ask you to think about what I say, and I will think about what you say.