8. The Importance of Being Right
- Chalice or LED/battery-operated candle
- Paper and pens/pencils
Use your established opening ritual.
Share the poem "The Place Where We Are Right" by Yehuda Amichai, translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell. Copyright 1996 by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell. Published by the University of California Press:
From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the spring.
The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.
But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plow,
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.
- Dictionary.com offers 62 definitions for the word "right," including "to assume an upright or proper position," "to avenge," "in good heath or spirits," "that which is morally, legally or ethically proper" and "the side that is normally opposite to that where the heart is." One of these definitions obviously relates to the poem. Do any others?
- Think about when you have felt most passionately about "being right." Was it something you knew in your heart, in your head, or in both?
- Consider the image of "hard and trampled yards." What does that mean? Think about the conflicts raging around us. How many of them have created "hard and trampled yards?"
- Consider the image of moles and plows breaking up hard ground. What can you do to create more "doubts and love" to break up these lifeless yards?
- Can you remember a time when you were in conflict with someone and you both were sure you were right? How did the conflict end? What are some ways conflicts can be addressed?
- Have you ever had to concede your point of view, even when you thought you were right, to resolve a conflict? How did it make you feel? Proud that you were flexible, or angry that you had to give in? Were there other ways the conflict could have been resolved that would have been more inclusive of each view?
Pick a subject on which you hold a very strong view, one where you know the "right" thing to do. It could be a global issue (the situation between Palestine and Israel, or inequitable access to a resource such as health care or clean water), a national issue (immigration policy in the U.S., comprehensive sexuality education, or the separation of church and state), or a personal issue (public school searches of student's lockers or vegetarianism). On the front of a sheet of paper, list the arguments you could make to defend your position. On the other side of the paper, list the arguments that could be made for an opposing position. Come up with as many arguments against your position as possible. You will not be asked to share this with the group. Do you see why someone taking the opposing stance could also feel they know the "right" thing to do? What happens when people look to different authorities to learn what is right?
Does being able to look at an issue from both sides weaken a person's resolve? Spend a few minutes journaling around the edges of the sheet of paper about your thoughts after completing the lists.
Use your established closing ritual. Or, extinguish the chalice and share this quote:
Whenever two good people argue over principles, they are both right. — Maria von Ebner-Eschenbach, 19th-century Austrian author