One more post regarding Wheatley’s work (see previous post).
When she writes about being willing to be disturbed, she discusses the implication of that event in which we are surprisingly disturbed. Why are we disturbed? What does it mean? What does it reveal?
She writes: “Lately, I’ve been listening for what surprises me. What did I just hear that startled me? This isn’t easy—I’m accustomed to sitting there nodding my head to those saying things I agree with. But when I notice what surprises me., I’m able to see my own views more clearly, including my beliefs and assumptions.
“Noticing what surprises and disturbs me has been a very useful way to see invisible beliefs. If what you say surprises me, I must have been assuming something else was true. If what you say disturbs me, I must believe something contrary to you. My shock at your position exposes my own position. When I hear myself saying ‘How could anyone believe something like that?’ a light comes on for me to see my own beliefs. These moments are great gifts. If I can see my beliefs and assumptions, I can decide whether I still value them.”
There are many of us in this country who would like to see the rhetoric toned down. We’d like to see a culture of manners, at least conversational manners, reintroduced. For this to happen, the art of listening is a skill which we’re going to need to sharpen. Unfortunately, we don’t like to listen because if we actually listen, we might then need to change—and change is uncomfortable. To change is to move, as Wheatley notes, into a world of uncertainly.
But without a willingness to listen, to be disturbed, to be confused, to be uncomfortable, we also not likely to be creative. “Great ideas and inventions miraculously appear in the space of not knowing,” Wheatley writes.
She says, “We have the opportunity many times a day, every day, to be the one who listens to other, curious rather than certain.” This is a positive benefit, she says, because it is not important to be joined at the head; it’s more important to be joined at the heart.