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The bike and the ball

published: 2009-06-05

The other day, I watched the Dalai Lama on Dutch television. He discussed
aggression and how one aggressive act always leads to more acts of aggression. It is his
conviction that the only way to settle differences (whether between individuals,
religions or countries) is through dialogue. Talk to each other, he said. It sounds so easy doesn’t it? Talk to each other. But what if you do not speak eachothers’ languages, and I mean this in a figurative sense? What if my set of values and modus of communication is not yours and we’re talking but we’re not understanding each other at all? I suppose we should then stay seated and first teach each other our languages.
It made me think of small children. They don’t know how to speak (and if they do, they don’t necessarily understand what they’re saying), so how do they do things?
There’s a playground right behind our house. I often stand there while sipping coffee.
Chances are, some kid is throwing sand in another kid’s face. Or pulling the
bike from beneath his best buddy’s ass. Violently. Their tiny faces are
contorted in pure and solid anger. It makes you question human nature and
the way we naturally solve things.
But then there’s this: however sad you feel for that kid who’s fallen full face on the ground, if you resist the urge to meddle you’ll see something happening we grown-ups don’t seem quite as good at. Usually, that little kid who’s been kicked off the bike will complain for a short while (cry or scream) but will then get up and start playing with a ball he happens to notice. Quite happily so. And when his friend bikes past and notices that ball, they’ll trade. Or maybe they won’t because they’ve forgotten what they were all angry about anyway as they’re now both having fun. By the time they’re parents come to pick them up they’ll be bawling their eyes out because they so desperately want more playtime together.
So here’s what I would suggest if dialogue doesn’t work because our languages are too different. Try and find some other important thing to engage in which will hopefully ease the pain, therefore allowing one to forget. Once wrongdoing is forgotten, one no longer needs to forgive.

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