Something More

You may have heard an opinion expressed or seen a news report and said to yourself, "I bet there is more to it than that." Such is the instinct I try to follow. There is almost always more to a matter than first meets the eye.

Take the hungry people and holy cows of India, for example. When and where I grew up, the conventional wisdom was that if it weren't for the Hindu prohibition against eating meat, there would be plenty of cattle to feed everybody. Upon visiting India as a recent college graduate, I did, in fact, see Brahma cattle wandering freely among the people in the market place. Occasionally, one would help himself to a piece of fruit from a vendor's cart without paying for it. Occasionally, a vendor would gently chase the cow or bull away with a stick.

Having grown up among more cattle than people, however, I could see right away that the bovine to human ratio was not promising. If the people of India slaughtered their cattle, everybody might eat for one day, but the next day they would be in real trouble.

Those holy cows and bulls were their farm implements. Without them, they could not plow or plant or harvest grain. And it turns out that more people can be fed by the grain a steer eats than can be fed by the meat of that same steer. Pastures and feed lots are not the answer for a nation with one third the land mass of the United States and over three times as many people. There was something more to the problem of hunger in India than I had been able to see from my home town.

The same is true of the social issues we face. Most of us automatically take the side that looks best for our self-interests without considering the position of those who take a different view, and this makes it impossible to reach a solution that is best for everybody.

A better approach is one I gained from a leadership conference where we heard a speaker who trained negotiators for governments and business corporations. She said, "Until you can understand your opponent's position better than he does, you are not ready to argue your own position."

That means if we ever expect to have a better policy on abortion, for example, those who claim a Right to Life will have to understand every legitimate reason why some insist on a Right to Choose. And vice versa. Then we might create a culture where we have a right to choose, and we choose life in more cases.

Who knows what conflicts could be resolved if we intentionally suspended our prejudices and self-interests long enough to consider something more?

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