Phoenix Riting! – December 7th, 2023


I completely missed the Forest Fest put on by CHI recently. I can’t do all the things! I’m amazed I missed that, though; it slipped right through my brain. I must have needed the down time. As the dark time unfolds, the days continue to shrink and the nights to deepen, I spend more time alone. Time to think.


Polarization is on my mind. Worldwide, opinions are crystallizing into oppositional deadlocks where both sides are convinced not only of their own rightness but the other side’s malignancy. This assumption of evil on the other side is most insidious and destructive. It goes beyond simple disagreement. In war, each side must believe that the other side is hateful, evil, inhuman. It’s what makes war possible, to demonize the enemy. In my opinion, if you find yourself demonizing or dehumanizing someone in your own mind, that’s a red flag. Question it!


Wars are breaking out again after a time of relative peace. Everyone is convinced that if only everyone else would do the right thing (as they see it), the world would be fine, but useless and hateful opposition is causing all the problems. In truth, though, polarization is necessary. There will always be people who do not share our beliefs, values or priorities. It’s how a human body functions, how the environment itself functions. We have butterflies sipping nectar from flowers and flies laying eggs in carcasses. Everything is valuable, nothing is superior or inferior, we all have a niche to fill.


But now, we are collectively drawing battle lines and the end result is war. We are dealing with enough stress on the planet already. War could break everything. What can be done to shift this situation?


A few years ago, I saw a video about a man who made it a practice to talk and listen to people who believed things he found detestable. It started when he went to a pro-life protest and spoke to an anti-abortionist. He asked her, “Why are you so against abortion?” He expected her to come up with religious or ideological reasons, but instead, her eyes filled with tears and she told the story of her heartbreaking struggle to have a child, and her grief, rage and incomprehension about why anyone would throw away such a precious gift, that had been denied to herself. “It’s wrong!” He saw how her political beliefs were rooted in her own pain and was able to open to her with compassion. He went on to tell many similar stories.


That is how we change minds. In another example, Darryl Davis, a black man, has spent thirty years befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan. Over 200 Klan members have given up their robes after talking to him. Again, he spoke with them as human beings, to their hearts, from his own heart, with interest and curiosity. Magic happens when we ask another, why do you believe as you do? What motivates you, what moves your heart and soul? Then we need to listen with a mind to understand them, rather than marshalling arguments to convince them that they are wrong. Most will find the balance themselves, if they are heard and understood, if they feel a sense of connection with. It’s simple, and yet so hard to practice.


But when we do, we find that each individual point of view provides a unique and valuable perspective. When we understand where another human is coming from and why things appear to them as they do, we can begin to approach a rapport.


We have to stop thinking in terms of ‘us vs them.’ There is no ‘them.’ There is only ‘us.’ That is why I love living on an island. Here, on this rock surrounded by water, it’s obvious that we are in this together. We are motivated to get along because we have to, our survival may depend on it. The same is true of the whole world, of course, but it’s harder to see it on that scale. And of course, not everyone agrees with me. Not everyone will agree on anything, and that’s okay, if we can simply allow disagreement without demonizing.


On another note, my song, “Something About Christmas,” by Phoenix Bee, is now available on all the streaming platforms. It’s also on Bandcamp if you enjoy supporting artists directly. Enjoy!


That’s what I think. What do you think? email me at