On Election DayThere’s so much I don’t know about the vast mystery of other people’s experiences but what are the small ways I can act on the unknowing? 

  ~ Leslie Jamison

Dear Community,

Many years ago, Thich Nhat Hanh, a now well-known Buddhist monk, began teaching that we are all pure radiant beings at our core. That we need to embrace anger, suffering, and despair as “mud” that provides nourishment for the flower of love and understanding to grow.

Thich Nhat Hanh encouraged the building of beloved communities capable of listening to one another because, by being open to listening deeply, we help each other suffer less. This call to listening has never been more important.

It is easier to listen to those whom you perceive as sympathetic, or as sharing similar experiences. It is more difficult to be open-hearted with those with whom you do not share similar experiences, or those who do not seem to be sympathetic to yours. Here, the hard work of being human and building human relationships and community really begins.

Today is election day!

What a privilege it is to live in a country where democracy means we can dissent, oppose, and even disagree. However, the real value of democracy is the work of reconciling different opinions and perspectives in order to ensure that we can better understand each other. How, as a community, can we keep a focus on doing our best for each other?

I am not a Buddhist monk and cannot claim an easy ability to have deep compassion, nor an incredible ability to listen.  However, I accept and believe that it is a far greater victory to achieve an understanding relationship with others than to win a victory with opinion. I am also clear that anger can perhaps inspire action, but does not always provide for a lucid, inclusive, and careful process.

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
~Coretta Scott King

These times require that we all stretch and work to host conversations, especially conversations that exercise different perspectives. All of our students, even the youngest are aware in some way, of the challenges of our time. Can we consider how to provide spaces to discuss these issues in ways that do not perpetuate alienation, fear, and despair? Can we inspire courage and hope?

The High School has been developing the following norms to use when engaging in conversations:

  • Show respect for the person, challenge the idea
  • Embrace diversity of opinion
  • Listen to understand rather than listen to respond
  • Be more curious than certain
  • Don’t assume
  • Listen without needing to respond right away
  • Step up/step back
  • Stick to your own experience
  • Take care of yourself and take a break before it becomes too much

Here are the principles upon which discourse can allow for differences and strengthens understanding:

  • Create an open space for all
  • Welcome risk-taking
  • Establish that every voice matters
  • Welcome varied political backgrounds
  • Do your part in creating a brave and safe space
  • Do not be afraid of disagreement
  • Every question is a good question
  • Think before you speak
  • Assume the best intentions
  • No interrupting
  • Make people feel included
  • Accept non-closure

Even if we are imperfect in our striving, we know that left unattended, disagreements can pull us apart. There is hope and growth in openness. I am inspired every day by the incredible courage of our students and our community and inspired both by Leslie Jamison and Thich Nhat Hahn,

What are the small ways we can act on that unknowing
that brings more peace into the world?

With humility on this important day,
Virginia McWilliam, Pedagogical Chair