I grew up in a good family, the eldest of six daughters, in a conservative, largely religious, suburban/rural community. You could say I was fairly sheltered, but I knew this and I was ok with this. People were nice. I was generally happy.
After college, I moved to Los Angeles. Oddly, despite my more sheltered upbringing, I was drawn to the world of media and entertainment. I wanted to understand how the world worked. How people thought. How people created the stories and the fictional worlds that both reflected and impacted society.
In the early years, I used to toy with the idea of moving back to Texas someday, but at this point, I think KP and I and our family are gonna stay here. This has become our life and we’re generally happy.
Even still, one of the big things I’ve struggled with over the past decade is reconciling the difference between the world I grew up in and the world I live in as an adult – and trying to find a happy middle ground of truth in the midst of it all. I see value in the world of my past just as I see value in the world of my present.
This usually leaves me in an odd place. Seemingly too liberal for one side, and too conservative for the other. So I fit in nowhere, always secretly wishing that either side would be willing to truly listen to the perspective of the other. I figure we don’t all have to agree on everything, but there doesn’t have to be this dichotomy either.
In the days after the election, my facebook feed showed a very divided country. In large part, I was disappointed by both sides. People stated they were unfriending anyone who voted for the other candidate. Others stubbornly refused to understand why the other side was upset at the election results.
It wasn’t so much how divided we are as a country (I don’t except everyone to see eye-to-eye on all issues) that bothered me so much – it’s how incapable we’ve become at engaging with perspectives that are different that ours.
To be fair though, after the initial shock for many had passed, I also saw some something I’d never seen in all my years out here. A window. There seemed to be several people who were not only perplexed at the election outcome, but also curious, truly wanting to understand how others thought. How half our county can see the same public figure in two totally different lights, when we all supposedly have access to the same media sources.
So a few days after the election I stumbled upon a Cracked article that I thought actually did a good job of speaking in a voice that many of my more liberal, L.A. facebook friends could understand to get them to think about a different perspective…so I took a chance, hoping that maybe some good could come from it, and…I posted it on my personal wall.
Let’s just say the response was not quite what I’d expected nor from the side I thought it would come from.
And maybe it’s just a small, silly thing in the grand scheme of things. After all, we all have social media faux pas from time to time, say things we shouldn’t online, and get more emotionally involved in an online discussion than we probably should have. But either way, the thread ended up affecting me greatly and it put me in a funk for the rest of the month that I found difficult to shake off.
I tend to be a hopeful person. I often write about hope in this blog. I want to believe the best in humanity. And while I’d hoped that others would’ve also recognized that brief window of opportunity to engage in conversation with the other side – instead, people’s unbridled human nature quickly devolved to accusations, knee-jerk emotional responses, and shutting people out from conversations without first trying to understand them.
To make things simple, let’s for a moment think about our country as a rather simplistic dualism, made up of two groups of people: the right/conservative and the left/liberal. The two sides don’t always have to agree on things, but for better or for worse, we’re united together as citizens of the same country. And we must find a way to work together.
Hmm. For better or for worse. That phrase sure sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The weekend after the divisive election, KP and I went to see the movie ARRIVAL.
While I still don’t have the answer to all of life (though wouldn’t that be nice!?) – something clicked for me while watching ARRIVAL. There’s a deep truth to the movie. Have you seen it yet? If so, you may have caught the deep truth. Or maybe you were so caught up in the alien spaceship story part that you didn’t even notice it.
Either way, I caught it. Because I’m weird and think too much about everything.
If you don’t know anything about ARRIVAL, here’s the trailer. Everything I talk about below are things you could figure out from watching the trailer, so not really spoilers, per se, but still, if you’re sensitive to those sorts of things, now you’ve been warned.
Warning: Spoilers-that-aren’t-really-spoilers below.
I talk about marriage a lot in this blog. Especially the tough parts. Because long-term marriage, even for the most ‘perfectly matched’ couples, can have some really hard times. Years even. When it’s near impossible to understand where your spouse is coming from. When it seems like your spouse has changed, your worldviews grown in different directions. When it feels like you speak a foreign language from each other, unable to effectively communicate.
This inability to communicate and understand the truth of what another person means to say, rather than assuming your own interpretation as correct, destroys a great many relationships.
If someone comes up to you and begins speaking in a language you don’t understand – you’re not suddenly going to start understanding any better if they begin yelling louder. If they point off into the distance and utter a word you don’t understand, you can’t automatically assume that they meant to say “horizon”, “far”, “that way”, etc. unless you have more context or understanding of their language.
In the ARRIVAL trailer above, Amy Adams’ character talks about the word “weapon”. Do the aliens mean “weapon” as in, a tool of destruction, or could they actually mean “tool” as in, something to help achieve something better? There’s a huge difference in meaning between the two words – and a misinterpretation could lead to an unnecessary doomsday.
It’s the same with marriage. Continued misinterpretation of your spouse’s meaning behind their language can easily lead to the unnecessary destruction of your relationship.
Did you notice in the trailer when Amy Adams removes her hood and places her hand on the screen in an attempt to communicate with the aliens? This is because true communication requires vulnerability, a stripping down to core elements so that the individuals can build up shared connections and create a sort of middle-ground language they can both understand.
We see the theme of communication at play in ARRIVAL not only through Amy Adams’ interactions with the aliens, but also in interactions with all the nations where the other 11 spaceships are located. Communication is not just an issue across intelligent life (alien and human), but also humanity (our different world languages), nationally (left/liberal and right/conservative), and within marriage (husband and wives).
Why is our culture of marriage in such a bad state?
Why do so many marriages fail?
Why is our country so divided?
Why do we find it impossible to understand one another?
Why do we assume that those whom we strongly disagree with must be “less human” than us and therefore refuse to associate or communicate with them?
It all stems from the same place. We’ve stopped valuing the ability to communicate and understand each other, to see each other as individuals worthy of having a perspective. We’ve stopped valuing the ability to work together – even with those we disagree with. It’s easier to give up on the other half of the country you disagree with, just as it’s easier to give up on your spouse when it seems like your worldviews no longer align.
But just because it’s easier, doesn’t mean it’s better.
So. Go watch the movie ARRIVAL. It’s about communication in marriage, in our nation, across our world, and across the universes. And how true communication can save us all.
But only if we’re willing to put forth the effort to understand a perspective other than our own.
If you liked this blog post, please feel free to share it with others.
Or here are some other similar posts you might enjoy:
When Marriage Is Hard. Really, Really, Hard.
The Person You Marry Will Change.
Why Never Speak Negative About Your Spouse is Bad Marriage Advice.
Where to Find Help For Your Marriage.