One Table, Many Chairs
Something special happens when we insist on one table with everyone around it. Oh, we may not like everyone there. We may not have seen them in years. We may not even recognize them. But, when the first rule of gathering is that everyone gets a seat at the table, the dynamic changes.
It seems that rule #1 has gone missing. We feel just fine with one head table and a banquet hall filled with rounders of 10. Or, let’s just scrap the head table sit with our friends around a 6-seater or a 4-top. Why not a deuce? Hey, we’re completely happy with our laptop and our tall latte at the table for one as long as there’s an outlet. As long as I can plug into “my community” and access all the wisdom the world has to offer, I’m good.
This is the direction we’re headed and we’re good with it. Our private truth feels fine. And that’s fine until we are confronted with different: different looks, different ways, different beliefs. Nothing wrong with different, we say, take that seat over there. Way over there.
Separate but equal, that seems fair. Just like it did when segregation seemed fair. And, in practice, people thought it made sense, until it didn’t.
What’s wrong with each one having a seat and a table to himself is that it doesn’t cause us to squirm. It doesn’t require us to listen to the difference, consider the different, and frame our response in respect to the one who differs. We dearly need rule #1: there is one table.
As soon as separation is an option, it’s an out. A reason to pack up our differences and find people who agree with us. In our own clusters we can justify our actions and find support for our opinions. We may work up a sweat and convince ourselves this is the work we are meant to do, this holding the line against those who would invade from that other table across the room.
But it’s hard to hear across the distance. And in the rabble of a million voices, each speaking his truth, where can we find a common language?
There’s only one way I know: One Table, everyone around it, no exceptions.
Yep, it will be nearly impossible to find union there, and the struggle to find a unified voice will nearly kill us. But it’s the presence of the opposition, not its absence, that force us to find it — faith, word, answer, method — a way forward that includes EVERYONE around the table.
One Table with as many chairs as there are people who seek a seat. One microphone and one scribe. When we love, we listen.
It would nearly kill us all. But out of that near death experience what life!
Posted on September 23, 2014, in In Action, Life and tagged acceptance, common table, Communion, community, deep listening, listening, negotiation, resolving differences. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.