There was this Swiss fairy named Berchtold; a grumpy Barbegazi, a helpful and shy, white-furred man with large feet. Berchtold came upon St. Gall, the Irish Monk, who traveled into the mountains to escape the complaining parishioners who frequented his hermitage. Often, like cats and dogs, the townspeople disagreed about how the village should be run. After the surprise of seeing Berchtold, St. Gall spoke about why he had fled the infighting.
Berchtold said the ability to respect someone even if the two of them disagreed—seems harder than ever at times when community members cut themselves off from those who don’t see the world as they do. Some village conflicts included questions about parenting, politics, and how the local cattle grazing in the hills was destroying the mountainside; which was now collapsing under the snow, causing deadly and destructive avalanches.
The Barbegazi had lived for hundreds of years in the mountains because of the stories about the humans who battled each other. Human fear had echoed into the peaceful hills before. Berchtold said the human strife occurred because the groups only hung out with their own kind. When you only hang out with your own group it can be very hard to see that there is another reality. The answer to the problem was that the villagers needed to exercise that part of human character called empathy. If St. Gall could encourage humans to exercise their brain’s empathy muscles, they would begin to slowly take their fingers out of their ears and engage in understanding the others world view. This first step would open the door to discussing what they had in common, which could lead to understanding important different views like politics, parenting, and eco-friendly farming.
The unsettled humans actually longed for connection with one another. The current conflicts were a painful breakdown and limited the wellbeing of all the families living in a village that had to depend on each other for survival. Although re-training the villagers to be understanding and tolerant would be difficult: it would lead to an “openness of thinking.” This creativity is only possible when humans are exposed to a wide range of viewpoints.
St. Gall asked open-minded leaders from opposing sides to knock on the doors of the opposing groups and instead of debating keep the conversation about how their life experiences had led them to believe as they did. By using this strategy, the townspeople, even months later, begin to feel less prejudiced about people they had previously found hard to tolerate.
For centuries, Switzerland has abided by a policy of neutrality in global political affairs. In the interest of self-preservation, Switzerland has maintained its impartial stance and has looked to avoid conflict. During World War I, it mobilized its army and accepted refugees but also refused to take sides militarily.
During these divided times, instead of getting into a shouting match over your political views, TRY TOLERANCE. Go for understanding . . . not agreement. Take this first step toward your own wellness and community wellness can follow. Regardless of who wins the next Presidential election, America needs to heal not only from the effects of a deadly world-pandemic; but come together to build an America that respects everyone’s individual worldviews
I happen to come across a new book about coming together in divided times. Jonathan Sacks talks briefly about his book in the YouTube below.
Did you know I’m actually a living, breathing person on the other side of these web, facebook, and email pages, one who wants to help people use their powerful imagination and explore their individual creativity? If you’ve got a quick question I can answer, don’t hesitate to hit reply anytime.
Mary “Cathy” Wilson