Pay Attention

It’s a New Year. Daylight’s lasting longer, though our perception is mostly mathematical. We have a sprinkling of snow if not much sun, and I’m ready for a new year.

I gave up “giving up” long ago. The “first day of the rest of my life” was years ago. Diets and exercise have failed me. Healthy food and hard work have helped me reach this advanced age, and no, 70 is not the new 40! Life is good, however, and the man-made chronology of time measurement has little meaning to me now. Nor do the geographical borders our forbearers invented to defend their industry and politics. I’m an old man in an old world.

I would not want to disappoint, however, and so will commit in the New Year to being a better and more attentive listener. I was once told by an old priest I loved our greatest gift is “rapt attention.” I will try.

In social policy, I’m an unashamed liberal, a moderate conservative on fiscal responsibility and transparency, and a wild-eyed radical on the subject of the corrupting influence of money in my country. That’s who I am. Now, tell me about you.

I’m constantly reminded that there are as many zealots on the left as there are on the right – rabid ideologues who’d rather spend more time defending their limited world view than expanding it. In positions of power, such minds prefer to posture and defend than engage and govern.

In the New Year, I’ll seek out and cultivate people with differing viewpoints and I’ll pay rapt attention to them. I’ll consider before I judge and try to weave their perspective into my own worldview. If I disagree, at least, I’ll better understand what I don’t know and perhaps win a new friend with whom to disagree.

The political framework of our country was designed as an equilibrium of differing ideas. It was understood that no one person or belief system had it all right and that the complex interplay of opposing thought among intellectually generous men, and later women, would give us the best chance of thriving in a difficult world in which the only constants are change and diversity.

In this New Year, I suggest we each spend more time listening and trying to understand one another, so we can indeed move on and achieve the ends our immigrant founders held sacred.

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