Friday, August 22, 2014

When conflicting perspectives are opportunities to learn about oneself and others

Multiple worldviews can be a source of conflict, but they can also be a path to peace.

One approach is to reconcile some of the gaps within oneself. Gish Jen wrote in Tiger Writing:
It is clearer from the book [Philip Kasinitz's Inheriting the City] than from this quote that life in a structural hole [a term coined by sociologist Ron Burt for the location between two cultures] is not an advantage in the way that, say, private school education is an advantage. Still, the larger picture this term describes, including both the ‘structural hole’ in which children of immigrants like myself grow up and the ‘creative selective assimilation’ that results, seems to me on the mark.
People who grow up in multicultural families or neighborhoods may be especially attuned to certain areas of discrepancy in worldviews or mores, but they are not the only ones who experience this potential source of anxiety and this opportunity for growth and insight. Everyone is exposed to uncertainties and "structural gaps" where they are taught contradictory or incompletely explained ideas.

After acknowledging the gaps within oneself, another approach is to reconcile with others. Richard Kearney wrote in Anatheism:
I like to think that the eventual formulation of the Good Friday Peace Agreement in March 1998 — permitting Irish citizens to be “British or Irish or both” — was greatly facilitated by the interconfessional and intercultural hospitality practiced by some of Ireland’s finest artists.
Here, a grassroots culture of acceptance and successful intercultural exchange is identified as being developed prior to a formalized political breakthrough. This is inspiration for self-empowerment; change can begin from the bottom-up.

Apparent contradictions can disguise significant opportunities for growth.

Sources:
Gish Jen. Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2013. p. 111.
Richard Kearney. Anatheism: Returning to God After God. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. (Kindle edition.)

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