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LIFE TOGETHER
April 2, 2011
 
I think I'm going to let my hair go silver in honor of my birthday.

Good,
Q said, and turned a page in his book.

Of course, I don't know if it will really be silver. It could just be brown with grey in it.

Mmmn,
he said, without looking up. He himself silvered beautifully years ago, without giving it a thought.

I mean, I could get it all grown out and then find that I don't like it. Then I would have spent three or four months with checkered hair for nothing.

Well,
he said, brown with grey will probably look fine. I was black with grey when we met, I think. Besides, there's not much you can do about it, is there?

I looked at him incredulously, but I held my tongue. Q is an intelligent man, but sometimes his innocence can be a little startling. For his part, I know he finds it incomprehensible that an intelligent woman would even think of her hair color, let alone speak of it.

We are so different, one from another. All of us. Life together can be so puzzling, it's a wonder any human community endures. But they do, through thick and thin, regularly piercing the veil between one worldview and another -- or failing to pierce it, and electing to ignore it instead.

I heard a radio program the other day about healing the rifts between members of groups whose histories have engendered mutual suspicion and hostility. Traditionally, an earnest effort at dialogue is seen as the way to peace: sit down and talk it out. Explore your differences, talk about them -- confront your mutual distrust and lay it bare. But the guest on this program begs to differ. Don't sit down and talk it out. Instead, sit down and talk about -- oh, baseball, or cooking. Paint a porch together. Eat together. Let a common life grow the way common life grows, which is usually not by means of summit meetings. Relationships grow by relating, and this happens best in ordinary -- not extraordinary -- ways. We learn to relate by relating, not by talking about relating.

Interesting. Such relating takes time, of course. Time and ongoing nearness -- nearness we arrange our lives to avoid, where enemies are concerned. You can't complete it in the space of a Saturday workshop, however earnest it may be. Now, I am a church person: I have attended many such workshops in my day, and have benefitted from all of them. But they did not complete the work of relating -- they only began it. There is a second step, a long one: the one that follows the Saturday workshop. The one that follows the courtship and the wedding. Life together.

+

The radio program was "On Being," with Krista Tippet. Her guest was Kwame Anthony Appiah, whose parents' interracial marriage inspired the 1960s film "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?" The program aired on March 24th. You can hear it at http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2011/sidling-up-to-difference/lists.shtml
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