Meetings of Opposites
The past – not dead; not even past, said William Faulkner – is present in our lives as a force-field which governs our interactions. The past is the track we are impelled by our common culture to follow. Can we get outside our pasts, the experiences which drive our suspicions and our grievances?
Building a railroad is a different enterprise than riding the already-laid tracks. We are desperate to be laying the track. Our job after Charlottesville – our philosophical and political and moral job – is to lay the track on which opposites may travel toward meeting.
The common ground of Meeting is not in the middle; it is a different space altogether. On the same streets, either we fight, Us-Against-Them – as Opposites – or we create this other way of being together: Meeting.
Common ground is a matter of living together, not of agreement in opinions. Civility is not the cause of common ground, but the effect.
Meetings of Opposites is the scaffolding for common ground.
An idea is more real to us than a material object seen by the eye. (Plato)
The optical illusion that we’re living in today is called Us-Against-Them:
What else is there?
Meetings of Opposites produces the actual experience of common ground among people whose opinions or positions are irreconcilable.
- Investigate the nature of visual perception to reveal the mechanism which produces optical illusions.
- Examine current discourse among us – the statues controversy in Charlottesville or any charged issue – to show the same mechanism at work.
- Introduce a philosophical framework for distinguishing perception from being-together.
- Participate in a series of exercises adapted from Outward Bound, to experience a way of being together different from the way perception allows and enforces.
Recognition of our perceptual automaticity, followed by the personal exercises, produces affective depolarization:
a freshened world for us to live into together.
Each session of 2 ½ hours includes all four components. When it’s safe, I’ll bring the workshop series anywhere in North America without charge.
Henry McHenry Jr. Charlottesville, Virginia