Oddly sufficient, it was an awesome quantity of hate that set me off on a cross-country street journey throughout America. I wasn’t taking a sabbatical to enter nature or working remotely in mountain-top forests. As an alternative, I spent 12 months residing out of my retrofitted Prius, showering at Planet Health and assembly individuals who appeared totally different to me. Venturing out of the liberal stronghold of San Francisco, my journey on the street took me to locations like a Trump rally in Minnesota and a convent with Catholic nuns and millennials.
I’m a progressive, queer, Asian-American man who usually clothes flamboyantly – my favorite outfit is a vibrant floral jumpsuit. So you possibly can think about that when a few of my buddies heard about my plans, they stated they had been involved for my security. They requested me if I used to be going to deliver a knife or pepper spray for defense. I’d be assembly individuals they deemed because the “enemy”, in any case.
Actually, I shared a few of their fears. I held stereotypical views about individuals on “the opposite facet”. Aren’t Trump voters people who find themselves uneducated and hate-fuelled, and hostile in direction of individuals like me? Would Catholic nuns assume I used to be unholy as a result of I’m homosexual?
Alternatively, I knew deeply what it meant to be decreased to assumptions based mostly on who I like or what I appear to be. My Asianness meant I had a Tiger mother, excelled at maths and was soft-spoken. Folks have hollered “ching chong” to me and requested the place I actually got here from. When individuals held these caricatures of me, I felt deeply unseen and unvalued. They knew little or no of the story of who I actually am.
This othering, fuelled by what I name an “period of incuriosity” the place we refuse to show in direction of each other to foster understanding and relationships, is driving probably the most pressing problems with our time: division and disconnection. That is one thing I’ve been exploring and writing about because the Bridging Variations Fellow on the College of California Berkeley’s Larger Good Science Middle. And, sadly, this concern is world in its attain. The rupture between households and communities attributable to politics or social identities has discovered its strategy to the UK, fuelled by the aftermath of Brexit – and analysis reveals that animosity between teams is getting worse.
For us in America, our Brexit-rupture second was the 2016 presidential elections. A Reuters/Ipsos ballot discovered that one in six individuals ended a relationship of some variety due to irreconcilable variations brought on by the elections. If it’s not politics fracturing us then it’s vaccines, a geopolitical disaster overseas, age divides or gender rights.
Via my analysis, I discovered that there’s a potent software that may assist us to bridge these variations and forge extra significant connections with each other. It’s one thing that we’re fortunately all born with, however may not practise in an intentional means: curiosity.
Outlined because the seek for understanding, curiosity is usually seen as simply an mental pursuit, a means for us to extract info. It fuels our midnight Wikipedia rabbit holes about Taylor Swift or places us on a fact-finding mission to determine each tree in our neighbourhood.
However curiosity can also be heart-centred, one which stirs our soul, used to discover our interior world corresponding to how we’ve been harm or what actually issues to us in life. Therapists encourage shoppers to mirror on their feelings and relationships. We use curiosity to raised perceive our family members and even strangers on the grocery checkout line. Questions like “What’s the story of your identify?” or “May you inform me about your grandparents?” unlock the sorts of tales stuffed with wealthy insights that assist us to actually see and worth the particular person we’re getting in dialog with.
What I discovered is that whenever you flip towards individuals with curiosity – even these with very totally different political opinions or non secular beliefs to yours – you’re much less more likely to put them on the defensive. By attending to know who they’re as a person, unbiased of their group identities or affiliations, you start to humanise them in ways in which counter the stereotypes you as soon as held.
That’s precisely what occurred to me on the Trump rally. A person voting for Trump, who was an optometrist and did mission journeys, informed me LGBTQ+ individuals deserve equality, too – though I cringed at his use of “the gays” to explain our neighborhood. I met one other man who stated his girlfriend was a Democrat, and though he cherished her, he felt ostracised by her buddies.
“I’ll be hanging out with them, and I simply know they assume that I’m silly,” he stated. Though he didn’t say it straight, I might inform he felt harm by their judgment. I might see his humanity shining by. This man harm and felt othered, similar to I did.
All through the day and night, I met dozens of Trump voters who nuanced my understanding of who “they” had been. I realised that they aren’t only a single monolithic group. A few of them believed in local weather change. Others had been dad and mom. Many valued the identical issues I did: household, service and belonging. By conversing, they grew to become much less scary to me. Every time, it grew to become a much less anxiety-inducing endeavour.
The identical was true once I travelled to a convent the place a bunch of Catholic sisters was residing with 5 millennials as a part of a six-month residency referred to as Nuns and Nones. The time period “nones” was coined to explain a rising variety of people who find themselves in search of religious that means of their lives, however aren’t affiliated with a faith within the conventional sense. A type of nones, Sarah, says there’s something highly effective about evading neat classes and staying on the sting, the borderlands, between traditions.
The typical age of a Catholic sister in the USA is near 80, and fewer than 1% are below 40. Aspect by facet, the nones and the sisters seemed worlds aside. Buzz cuts, velvet shirts and tattoos on one facet; greying hair, purple floral tops and aged palms on the opposite.
One of many pivotal moments on the Nuns and Nones residency between them was a conversational salon on the vow of chastity. The salons concerned sitting in a circle collectively for hours and sharing ideas, private experiences, and questions.
Sarah expressed her preliminary resistance to the phrase chastity. She stated the time period carried a destructive connotation and historical past – a software to exert energy over ladies, controlling their our bodies and suppressing their sexuality. The sisters nodded their heads, indicating they understood the place she was coming from. Because the sisters elaborated on the vow from their perspective, Sarah took of their tales, studying about their relationship to femininity and the divine.
Sarah’s preconceived concepts about chastity started to loosen – simply as my assumptions had on the Trump rally – and he or she began to see the vow of chastity in a extra expansive means. Making a lifelong vow meant that the sisters’ love (and time and power) might stretch past a single romantic associate or their rapid household and go in direction of being in service of the underserved or marginalised – or perhaps a group of millennials who’d arrived on their doorsteps in a Subaru.
I didn’t simply utilise curiosity on the street throughout apparent divides like politics and faith. There have been additionally many dinners with individuals a lot youthful or older than me – equally illuminating as we change into rather more generationally segregated with younger individuals in school, adults at work, and elders in nursing houses or retirement communities.
By the tip of my street journey throughout the nation, I had clocked hundreds of miles in my Prius and the large takeaway from my experiences was that on the coronary heart of the division and disconnection so rampant all world wide is an absence of curiosity. Once we flip away from each other, we function from assumptions and biases. We’re extra more likely to dehumanise a bunch, which makes it simpler for us to concern or hate these individuals.
If we as a substitute select to show towards one another with curiosity, it turns into a potent power for understanding and connection. And happily for everybody, you don’t should hop right into a decades-old Prius to practise this ability with others. You’ll be able to deepen your follow with curiosity in a dialog along with your neighbour who has opposing political opinions from you, your colleague who you’re in battle with at work, or your baby who’s going by a battle you’ve by no means skilled earlier than. You’ll be able to problem your assumptions, ask them questions like “inform me extra,” and be prepared to be reworked by what you study.
Society will proceed to grapple with disaster after disaster and whereas we will’t management these items, we will harness the superpower of deep curiosity to raised navigate them. Not solely does it have the ability to rework our lives – it actually can change the world. The following time the rug is pulled from below you, don’t disguise. As an alternative, I ask you to hunt.
Search: How Curiosity Can Rework Your Life and Change the World by Scott Shigeoka is revealed by Bluebird at £16.99. Purchase it at guardianbookshop.com for £14.95