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Learning to live in/as an evolving system

Paul Grobstein's picture

Paul Krugman's The Politics of Spite is focused on a small issue (current Republican party practices) but speaks importantly to a much more general one, the use in politics of "scorched-earth tactics."  So too with a recent news article: Another Landlord Worry: Is the Elevator Kosher?  Describing a current controversy about shabbas practices, it quotes a New Yorker as saying “Just because there is one opinion doesn’t mean that it is everyone’s opinion. One of the wonderful things about Judaism is that there are competing opinions about everything.” 

There are different opinions about whether that is such a wonderful thing about Judaism, but how about generalizing it a bit in a way that relates to "scorched-earth tactics"?

“Just because there is one opinion doesn’t mean that it is everyone’s opinion. One of the wonderful things about life is that there are alternative opinions about everything.”

Let's think a little bit about this, starting with "life' as a biological, evolutionary process.  An elephant's "opinion" is that having a trunk is a good thing while a whale's "opinion" is that having flippers is a good thing, and so forth.  These are alternative ways of being rather than competing ones and among the advantages for biological systems of the existence of their being alternative ways of being is that they can interact so as to open up new ways of being.   To mention only one example, animals (ourselves included) came into existence and continue to depend on an alternate way of being, that of plants.  Rather than competing, alternate ways of being can be mutually supportive and generative of new possibilities.  

Now let's think about "life" as what we each experience every day, our human lives - including our interactions with other human beings.  Why do we think of different opinions as threatening, as things competing with our own?  Its that characteristic that, in the extreme, leads to "scorched-earth tactics," not only in politics but in human affairs generally.  Maybe we'd all be better off taking a cue from biological evolution, learning to think of other opinions not as things that compete with our own but rather as things that enriches our lives by providing the grist for new ways of being? 

For more along these lines, see The Taoist Story Teller and Culture