Last Wednesday, as I went to get into my car to go to a Doctor’s appointment, I observed a lame bird at the foot of the tree-line on the back of our property. It appeared that it had broken its wing some time ago and that the wing had healed in such a way that now it could not even flap. And with only one workable wing, the poor thing could not fly. Since it is in its nature to fly the bird watched the other birds overhead with such longing that its neck elongated, as if yearning itself could lift the bird skyward. As I got into the car I made note of where the bird was so that I could retrieve it when I got back and maybe take it to animal control for some help. But as I drove to my appointment I couldn’t help but ache for the bird being unable to fulfill that to which its nature impels it.
And these thoughts lead me to wondering: So what does our nature impel us towards? Unless we have been damaged by some very early trauma, our nature moves us towards connectedness with others since it is through relationships with them that we come to know ourselves, that we come to “be” ourselves. From our first moment outside of our mother we yearn to be comforted by her arms, by her milk, by her voice. The fact is that we do not become “Us” in isolation. And yet, that very relationship for which we yearn also clashes with our innate self-centeredness. Life’s demands… The demand to grow in self-control, the demand to think of the good of others, the demands of what love actually requires… pull us away from ourselves.
These demands create a tension, a pulling of our heart in two opposing directions: the isolationism of self-centeredness versus the expansionism of other-centeredness. It seems that many of our life decisions are a playing out of this tension, and not always for our good. In speaking about tension, Roger Martin has observed: “The ability to face constructively the tension of opposing ideas and, instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, to generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but which is superior to each.” Understood this way, tension is not a bad thing in that it is an inner call to find some new and hitherto unknown expression of resolution. As Martin’s quote suggests, that resolution requires a bit of patience so that the merits of each point-of-view can be understood.
When I got home from the Doctor’s I could not find the bird. I am hoping that one of the roaming neighborhood cats did not get it. I would like to suggest that our current national state-of-affairs is comparable to the bird with the broken wing, and that the expressions of animus at work in the National body prevent us from coming to a resolution of our National tension. Each side wants what it wants, and usually in complete opposition to what the other side wants; and yet, each side wants a quick resolution to the tension that we all currently feel. If Roger Martin’s observation is correct (and I think that it is) then the creative resolution of our National tension… our coming to a healing of sorts, the forging of a new common will… requires less shouting and more talking. How can we come to a new understanding unless we can “hear” what the other is saying behind the words that they’re using?!