My mother has a benevolent mantra that helps her maintain her composure when interacting with people whose opinions vary greatly from her own. During encounters with such people, instead of following her instinctual desire to attack, she forces herself to think, Isn’t that interesting? She repeats those words over and over in her head, and while they may begin as an internal scream (“ISN’T THAT INTERESTING?!”), at some point the voice relaxes, and she’s able to think, Yes, actually, that is interesting. It’s interesting that someone thinks that way. I wonder how that came to be.
By the time she’s ready to respond to the stupid person’s asinine opinion (I’m not as well-balanced as my mom, if you hadn’t noticed), she’s able to do so with a calm, diplomatic mind, recognizing the dumbass (sorry…I’ll try harder) as a human being with a set of life experiences unique from her own. This strategy works quite well for her, and for anyone with the good fortune to come in contact with her.
I have my own version of “Isn’t that interesting,” which is: “It takes all kinds to make the world.” I’ve employed that one a lot lately; it skips through my head on a regular loop. What helps make the statement work is that it’s true; it does take all kinds to make the world. Diversity is a keystone to survival, and while living with so much variety can be exhausting, without it, our world would be a sterile, stagnant place.
Central to the story of Aret is a merciless, twenty-year war between humans and dragons. As I’ve witnessed the level of discontent between Earthen humans over the past several months, I’ve thought a great deal about the Aretian human/dragon conflict. There are many crossovers: refusal to understand the other’s perspective, all participants’ certainty that they are right, and the consistent, stubborn insistence that gaps between the sides are unbridgeable.
If the internet existed on Aret, it might look something like this:
IH8DRAGONS911: My youngest son has disappeared. 😥
FIREBREATHER69: Good! All of my sons were killed by HUMANS. Payback’s a bitch! 😀
DOWNWITHDRAGONS: ^ hater
HUMANPOWER88: We’re coming for you, Firebreather69! You and what’s left of your family!
IEATHUMANSFORBREAKFAST: Humanpower88, I cannot wait to sink my fangs into your meaty guts.
FIREBREATHER69: LMAO, Ieathumansforbreakfast! Save the kids for dessert!
But even with all of our anger and self-righteousness, the fact is no gap is unbridgeable, because there are a couple of crucial things we have in common (even with dragons):
#1 – We want to be happy and free from suffering.
#2 – We don’t know the answers to life’s questions. We are all guessing.
Within those commonalities, we can find points of intersection and agreement if we so choose. I’d like to say: “If Aretian humans and dragons can do it, so can we!” but I haven’t decided the outcome of the story. The world of Aret could get sucked into a black hole. Or one of the characters might wake up and realize the whole trilogy was a dream. (Just kidding.)
I don’t know if humans or dragons will evolve to a point where they focus on intersections instead of differences, but in the meantime, I suggest you find your own benevolent mantra, even if the best you can manage is: Someday I’ll be dead and will no longer be exposed to other people’s opinions. Sometimes that’s all I can muster, and strangely enough, even that one is comforting.