the_moon__and_the_world_by_princerosarum-d3d2cnu700x300If we are going to solve some of our wicked problems, we’ve got to be able to disagree with each other without digging our heels into holes so big we can’t see over the mound of dirt.

Many aren’t even willing to try to listen to another viewpoint. And the pressure for political correctness means the fear of offending is many times stronger than the desire to alleviate suffering, inequality or injustice. Look at our government, our businesses (‘social’ or not), our communities, our families! In this September’s Convocation Address, the new president of Brown, Christina Paxson urged students and faculty to exercise Constructive Irreverence.  She asked them to

take a hard look at the assumptions, the status quo…to challenge what they think their preconceived notions are…to question the world and how they can make it better…[to use their] unparalleled independence [in a] thoughtful and responsible manner.”  She warned them that impertinent criticism “will obstruct your ability to learn and ultimately limit your ability to affect change in the world.”

 

The pressure for political correctness means the fear of offending is many times stronger than the desire to alleviate suffering, inequality or injustice

 

Some people think it takes courage to stand up against the status quo.  I’m not really sure.  Sometimes I think it takes more of a different sort of courage to stand with the status quo. Chris Paxson continued,

Anyone with the temerity to articulate an opposing view deserves to be treated with respect…The ability of men and women to think independently and with open minds was integral to the spread of the abolition movement that changed the world for the better. This lesson is as relevant today as it has ever been

 

Sometimes I think it takes more of a different sort of courage to stand with the status quo

 

How true!  Admittedly, I was born with a double dose of the “challenge status quo’ gene.  It comes quite naturally and rarely tactfully. So I’m speaking to myself, not just you.  As I’ve gotten older, and appreciated how slippery the status quo slope can be, I hope I’ve become more open-minded, more willing to listen, to appreciate, to understand, to disagree with the opinion without also disdaining the person and less willing to allow the divergence of opinion from blocking real, maintainable and needed progress.

 

As I’ve gotten older, and appreciated how slippery the status quo slope can be, I hope I’ve become more open-minded

 

I remember the premier of the musical Les Misérables. Having now seen the movie twice, it seems so painfully relevant to our world. Javert, a prison guard, and Valjean, a former prisoner, play a game of cat and mouse for decades.  Valjean was shown grace and forgiveness by a bishop, changing his life from hate to compassion.  Javert committed his life to the Law.  In the end, after Valjean saves Javert ‘s life, Javert kills himself.  Why? Because he couldn’t handle a changed world.  In a misérables way, Javert preferred bondage to the Law than Freedom of forgiveness and grace.

Enough is enough. It is time to for us to practice Constructive Irreverence: take a hard look at our assumptions and see where they may prevent us from making this world better.

If our children are being taught to do so, it is incumbent upon us to try as well.  In fact, it is our duty. It directly affects the world we leave them and the role models we put before them. So, this day, this week, this month, find an opportunity to be Constructively Irreverent.  And then find another.