Powerful Potential of Conflict

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, I felt especially thankful for the cease-fire between Israel and Palestine.  Yet I know deep in my heart that it probably won’t hold and is really only a tiny step forward, not a breakthrough.  I have been thinking a lot about how polarization of views has such a hold on human nature in so many aspects of the world today.  We have extreme political polarization.  Scientific polarization.  Religious polarization.  It seems to be the cause of wars, terrorism and not the least our inability to face climate change with urgency and action.

Yesterday in Oslo, Rupert Sheldrake held a lecture on his new book that has been recently translated into Norwegian. The Norwegian title “Vitenskapens vrangforestillinger” means “Science’s Delusions”.  I am not sure which book is translated:  “Science Set Free” or “A New Science of Life”.  At any rate his work has recently come under attack and is considered a threat to the current scientific community. Interestingly enough his lecture was packed, standing room only.

How do we move forward evolutionarily, when we hold our own ideas so dear.  We talk about research that flies in the face of the current paradigm. What do we do with that?  The data is there and available. But nobody wants to know. Data is not enough!

“Openness alone can not drive change. Do we dare seek out people who are different from ourselves to help us question our own beliefs and see things from a new perspective?”  These  words come from a important and insightful Ted Talk by Margaret Heffernan called “Dare to disagree”. Since I saw this video about a month ago, I can’t get it out of my mind.  I think she is pointing to an evolutionary leap that we all have to make.  She calls conflict, “thinking together”, and presents a compelling story where doing exactly this has save millions of lives.

Not only do we not talk to people who have different opinions, we ban the topics from our conversations. I see that in my family where politics are totally avoided to prevent arguments!  In addition the search engines on our computers have been programmed to show what we want to hear – providing searches results that support those ideas!  So we are even prevented from randomly coming across conflicting views unless we consciously search them out.

It is part of our biology to look for confirming views.  Yet by doing so, we are missing a powerful potential for innovation and progress by digging deeper into differences.

This video says it much better than I can.  I hope you take a look at it!

The question I continue to sit with is: how can we use these ideas in our own life?

2 thoughts on “Powerful Potential of Conflict”

  1. Dear Mara, Thank you so much for a very valuable observation. With reference to you first sentences: Who dare to come forward with a long term objective for how people can live together in the Middle East. Obviously there is a need for Thinking Together. To me it is not up for discussion; jews and arabs have to find a way of organizing a society where they can live together and share the land.

    1. Dear Per-Christian,

      Thank you for taking time to comment on this post! I so agree with what you say. Of course easier said than done as history shows us.

      The evolutionary step will be to shift from a Worldview that believes “it is us vs. them” to one that believes “We are all in this together”. “Spiral Dynamics” and “Integral Thinking” do a lot to facilitate this. The new trend in “Vertical Development” in leadership programs is also working in this direction.

      But it is frustrating to see so many of us still stuck in the first Worldview. Videos like this can hopefully contribute to moving us forward.

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