In the TED Talk below Elizabeth Lesser talks about her lunch invitation of someone she had “othered” – someone with a fundamentally different politic to her. She talks about two people dropping their pretense of ‘know it all’ and shares Rumi’s pertinent poem… Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
But what if we did this with people we “other” for reasons that are not just political? I am not making any assumptions that social harmony is just one conversation away, but I do think that there is a profound power in listening, being heard and understanding. Neutrality comes to mind here – a place that allows us to listen to people who have different views/ideas/politics/religion/etc. For me neutrality in listening is about striping away my lenses, being aware of the voices in my head that want to challenge everything that the “other” person is saying, allowing me to connect with or acknowledge someone else’s view despite my internal reactions. Assumptions also come to mind… when I put these aside in my listening, there is space for emergence, creativity and shared possibilities to be born.
When I think of the process of othering it is not only with regard to people but place. For me othering functions as a cleaver to disconnect us from who/what we are connected to, even if we don’t realise it. So is the discourse and process of self-othering an appropriate response or the one that fits best for my exploration? Or, have I just headed in that direction because I wasn’t sure how else not to “other”?
Gruenwald raises the premise that people are connected to ‘earthly phenomena’ and there is an opening to explore the ‘embodied sense of connection gives rise to a different ontology, an ontology of self becoming-other in the space between self and the natural world, composed of humans and non-human others, animate and inanimate; animals and plants, weather, rocks, trees’ (Somerville, Power & Carteret 2009, p. 9).
So what does it mean and feel like to be a self becoming-other??? More on this later…
Somerville, M, Power, K & Carteret, Pd 2009, ‘Introduction: Place Studies for a Global World ‘, in M Somerville, K Power & Pd Carteret (eds), Landscapes and Learning: Place Studies for a Global World, Sense Publishers, Rotterdam, pp. 3-20.