The unbridgeable space

On election night here in the U.S., I was prepping a new edition of the dispatch to send later that evening. As each hour passed, the words on my screen seemed more and more trivial. What good would come from another email in our inbox?

A week later, I’m still not sure.

I don’t know what to say or how to fix the stress fractures in our collective identity. Some of you probably feel the same way. Others are very clear on what needs to be said and done, and I admire your clarity and determination.

That’s not where I am, though.

This season of dispatches is called Slowly Together. There isn’t much of either right now.

The name of this community is Uncommon in Common. Few are trying to find commonality right now.

We talk a lot about enlarging the circle of we. Instead, the circles are getting smaller.

I don’t have a list of remedies for where we find ourselves. I worry that anything I do say will fall somewhere between unhelpful and inadequate.

Maybe there’s an easier place to start. What isn’t going to make things better? Spending more time with people who see the world the way we do and less with those who don’t. Letting algorithms determine what we read. Giving our time and attention to outlets that thrive on outrage and division. Choosing our devices over conversations with strangers. Presuming to know what’s in the heart of people we disagree with.

The only things I know to do are listen, give, help, and love more today than I did yesterday.

And after failing at that, trying again.

Sometimes things get better through seminal moments and grand gestures. But those aren’t always options we can pursue in our everyday. What is within our reach are the hundreds of small choices we make throughout the week; the choice to look someone in the eye and introduce ourselves, the choice to invite a neighbor to stop by, the choice to extend grace online.

I’ve seen those choices again and again in our own online neighborhood. Uncommoners overflow with kindness and hospitality. You welcome difference and eagerly seek common ground. You’re desperate for things to improve and know that’s easier when people join together.

I started this community because I’ve always found great joy in friendships that don’t make sense: two people who see the world so differently, but enjoy other’s company because they share a deep love for this one thing.

That single commonality sparks empathy and understanding. These friendships are so valuable not because one person might change the opinions of the other, though that sometimes happens. The value lies in no longer seeing a category of people in binary terms. Instead, our circle of we grows because one more wonderfully flawed and frustrating person has joined it.

A few months ago, I read an interview with the author Leah Hager Cohen.

The space between two people is ultimately unbridgeable, no? This is the terminal loneliness of being. Yet, isn't living a full life contingent on the effort to connect anyway, against all odds?

The effort to connect with one another despite certain failure is precisely the movement that brings us closer to our own humanity, and to grace.

May we never stop trying to bridge that unbridgeable space.