The Place Where We Are Right

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 4:59am
Photo by Laura Colomé

The Place Where We Are Right

Here's a poem I re-read frequently. As short and simple as it is, it helps me remember that nothing new can grow between us when we speak to each other from "the place where we are right."

More important, the poem leads me to ask what I think is a question worth pondering: How might things change if we began our political conversations not from our certainties, but from our "doubts and loves"?

Many of us who differ politically love the same things — our children and grandchildren, our country, the natural world. Many of us who differ politically harbor the same doubts — that what's being done (or not done) to care for the things we love is the best or the right thing to do.

Yes, we differ on what ought to be done. But what if instead of starting by arguing over solutions — over "the place where we are right" — we began by sharing our loves and doubts? I suspect that our political conversations would be much more productive because they would proceed from common ground.

Hey, it's worth a try! One thing I'm certain about is that the other way isn't working!

Yehuda Amichai is widely regarded as Israel's greatest modern poet. If you read "The Place Where We Are Right" while remembering the political context in which it was written, the poem's power multiplies.

The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the Spring.

The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.

But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plough.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.

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Parker J. Palmer

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

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Perfect! Thank you for including the pillow fight which adds a perspective. And for the poet's poem which continues to knock on the wall of un-hearing governments. They are not deaf. Something has to get through if we keep knocking. And , yes, share doubts. I wish everyone could wake up from history, turn over and embrace each other. Earth and water would join the applause.

Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful poem Parker. I will be using this with my Jr. High student this year as it connects with me in a powerful way. It will be fun to explore this with my students this year. Again thanks!

What a wonderful poem. The idea of the ground of being right is so trampled, perhaps the soil so compacted, that nothing grows and no new ideas can be created.
It reminds me of David Bohm's ideas in his book On Dialogue ... we can learn so much if the communication is open, thank you for sharing this.

I just had this conversation with my stepson who works for a lobbying group in DC. I asked, how do you think it's possible for opposing sides on issues in our nation's Capitol to come to a place of agreement on tough issues where there is no right or wrong, just our side vs your side? Is it possible to make decisions without the need for being right? He paused for a moment and said, "There are people smarter than me who haven't figured it out, I'll leave it to them for that answer." Your statement here Parker is what I was asking and hoping to hear from his wisdom. Thanks for the perfect illustration. It worries me that somehow in the political thick of things, it feels like the "younger generation" may be giving up hope of being able to do this

a powerful reflection for life's moments, the idea for me is to remain always curiously, open rather certain and closed.

I find that as I get older, I am more curiously open, as Mabel put it. I thank God for that,; hopefully more people will age into that "curiously open" state of being. One can only hope.

Glad you spoke at FCNL Annual Meeting. I didn't arrive till the next morning but from what people told me it was like the Spirit selected your words to facilitate the work I and some others were charged with regarding process rather than outcomes. On my end I carry a concern to 'calm the rhetoric' and that FCNL is being called to a nurturing healing ministry.

Thanks for your faithfulness my friend!

A great read to encourage a shift in how we approach political and social dialogue, and much appreciated by this weary soul during the current election season!

Always an inspiration to read Mr. Palmer's material. I hope someday we can bring him to Bethany College to share his insights.