Living The Dream: Some How-To’s

We all want to be happy. That’s the dream we all share, even though the details of our dreams vary.  

With Mahamudi -- different generation, race and religion than myself.

With my friend Mahamudi — different generation, race and religion than myself.

How do we live the dream? Diamond-Cut Life has been chasing the answers since late 2007 – with a different twist than most. I don’t advocate any political or religious ideology. My core message is more joy, not through having more stuff, but through more connection with others, more physical activity, more contact with nature, more homemade food, and more conserving of resources such as gasoline.

Here’s the catch: the way we each live the dream impacts how everyone else gets to live their dream. So, getting past ideology is central to living the shared dream.

Let me do a process-check here. The coffeehouse where I’m writing is playing some  hyperactive, discordant music that is, frankly, irritating as all hell. I’d love to forbid this kind of music from being played in public places, period. But somebody – I imagine an employee who has to be here all day long – likes this music enough to play it. So, I’m setting aside my irritation. The hard-working employee might be getting some uplift from this howly, yowly stuff. I find I am able to write despite the air-waves being bombarded.

Here are the methods I currently know of for living our dreams in ways that support everyone’s dreams. I’m wide open to you adding your suggestions.

Cultivate friendships with folks of different ages, races, religions and political parties. This is not the human default choice. The human default since the beginning of time is to stick to one’s tribe, the people who most resemble us. However, we can evolve out of that default choice (more on evolving later), and in fact, people bridge the  barriers of religion, politics, race and age all the time. My friendship with Mahamudi, an immigrant from Somalia, connects me with an entirely different approach to life than my own. I get frustrated with him (can’t he ever show up on time?) but he makes my life much richer.

Boycott hate-driven radio and writing. Emotions and attitudes are contagious, like colds and the flu. So, rather than exposing ourselves to talk-show hosts and writers who cultivate anger and hatred, and adherence to a self-serving ideology, choose media that is neutral, objective or positive.

Suspend the part of ourselves that Has To Be Right. Needing to be right can be a form of aggression. Insisting that we are right creates a lot of strife and problems, both at home and in the larger world. Usually, everyone is holding some piece of the truth. Let’s just accept that we will rarely get others to say, “OK, you’re right”. Let’s acknowledge to others that they’ve got a piece of the truth. We can agree to disagree. This saves a lot of energy.

Be curious about opposing viewpoints. Why is my carpool partner a committed atheist? What might be the dangers of universal health care? What do a variety of studies tell us, as opposed to just the first research we can find that supports what we already thought anyway? True curiousity does not attack, nor seek to change the other. It’s about learning and becoming smarter. Cultivate your curiousity. Being curious, the way children often are, is a much happier state than that of being angry or aggressive.

In conflicts, look for Third Ways. Abortion is an ideology-driven issue, a classic part of the culture-war in the U.S. But, some pro-lifers and pro-choicers realized some years ago that they actually had a shared dream. The shared dream was one of no unwanted pregnancies. Preventing unwanted pregnancies was a Third Way, one on which the two sides ended up working together, productively.

On the domestic front, my husband and I have been known to butt heads over how I think we should spend our free time — be active! — versus how Thor wants us to spend our free time — let’s stay home together! The Third Way is usually something different than either of our initial positions. For example, I can be active with gardening while Thor reads on the front porch. Every 15 minutes I go over, collect a kiss and some conversation, and dive back into gardening. The Third Way is neither about being a bully, nor about caving in. It’s about listening to people’s needs, and seeking to meet them, without having to be “right”.

Look for the dream behind the ideology. The dream behind much conservative thought is for everyone to be free and independent. The dream that underlies much liberal thought is for everyone to be safe and included. The dream behind most religions is that our lives are indeed meaningful, and unified by a loving God who want us to be loving to each other. These underlying dreams are much better to focus on than the details of ideology.

Remind yourself that the stakes on overcoming ideological divides are higher than ever. Climate change is happening, and the way we deal with stress and dwindling resources makes or breaks us. A journalist named Steve Tripoli made a valuable comment last Tuesday on a David Brooks column in the New York Times. Here is an excerpt: We face truly global, literally existential threats – if we cannot approach and solve them by shedding the distortions of ideological lenses, we’re in for a ton of trouble. We have to be, in short, smarter, better, less self-interested humans than we’ve ever been before in history.

“Evolve we must”, Mr. Tripoli says. I concur.

Evolving, i.e. becoming wiser and less self-interested, is easier said than done, I admit. My own pursuit of the diamond-cut life does not always meet its own mark. And, most of my social circle has a world-view similar to my own. We tend to have the tribal mentality, i.e. we are right, and others are not. How many people do you have in your life with different ideology or background than your own?  How do you bridge the divides between yourself and others?

4 Comments
  • grnpwrguy
    May 5, 2013

    First off, no Mahamudi cannot be on time at least by our western standard of “promptness” and that’s something you just have to accept just like you would if someone has a fundamentalist ideology. As you mention a careful media diet is important to keeping an open community focused approach to life. Western media excels at carving out self-referential, self-reinforcing groups of consumers who share a common ideology. Like with food, a good media diet has lots of diversity and moderation.

    • Alison
      May 5, 2013

      Good insight about how we need media diversity, like food diversity. Also about the non-Western aproach to time . . the only catch being that to earn a living, you will generally need to arrive at work on time. Thanks, Green Power Guy.

  • Colleen
    May 5, 2013

    First of all, I just want to say that that picture of you and Mahamudi is a keeper — and the friendship, too, of course!
    I do agree that people don’t tend to bring enough diversity into their lives, but when they do, it’s usually very enriching for everyone. I think it nearly always takes mindful effort to move out of our comfort zones. I like it though, being places (restaurants, festivals, shops, neighborhoods) where not everyone looks or talks or acts like me.

    • Alison
      May 6, 2013

      Colleen, I love what you wrote: “It takes mindful effort to move out of our comfort zones”. I think that pushing the limits of our comfort zones is what it often takes in order to grow and evolve. But also, we often don’t even move around fully WITHIN our established comfort zones. For example, I’m comfortable with many more types of people than I even manage to have contact with on any regular basis. On a separate note, Thor and I are excited about your upsoming interracial adoption. I’m continuing to pray for it to all come together soon.

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