Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Communication is not dead

I've been known to complain that the art of listening is dead and that no one actually communicates anymore. As I think one of my friends said (and since it was a much more clever remark than they were typically capable of, I suspect they were quoting someone else), "Most people don't really listen, they just wait for their turn to talk."

Well, I had an honest to God (pun intended) conversation with one of my coworkers yesterday. He is Mormon and I am...not. He also teaches junior high level sunday school, so I think he's used to fielding questions about his beliefs and putting them into comprehensible words. We have, on other occasions, discussed politics (he still thinks that voting for Bush is a good idea...sigh), family, and religion without coming to blows. So when he remarked on an article in the NYTimes about gay marriage, I thought I might finally get an answer to my ongoing question about "what the heck is the big deal?" that didn't rely on base prejudice.

So I asked. And he tried to explain as best he could why he believes that it isn't what people should be doing. What was utterly facinating to both of us was that we were in absolute agreement on so many points, but still managed to come to opposite conclusions. The discussion went on for about 2 hours, so it's hard for me to sum up, but the highlights were:

1. God (or whatever you want to call him/her/it) is benevolent, not vengeful or punishing. Thus, religion should focus on the "pros" and not the "antis".

2. Family is one of the primary "gates" to real happiness. (Though what constitutes family remains a point of contention and probably results in our differing opinions.)

3. Our other greatest contention was over the "nature" of homosexuality. He tried to compare it to alcholism or other addictions. (Something that is a constant struggle, but which can and should be controlled.) I think of it more like being left or right-handed. (You can force a left-handed child to write with their right, but it's not natural and sometimes really messes them up.)

We realized that we weren't going to agree fairly early on, but just listening and responding to the other person's views kept us going. It's just too bad that having someone clearly and logically explain his/her views without becoming angry or beligerent when the listener respectfully disagrees has become such a novelty.

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