On Sunday night, Glenn and Mara Coleman set up the first Burning Religion Party at their wonderful house, so nicely named “Willowkeepe.” After the party officially ended and the hanging out began, I asked if I could try an experiment. I had people talk about a subject that they were passionate about. First, they just spoke about it with the passion they typically have about that subject. Then, I stopped them mid-monologue, and asked them to put on a red clown nose and continue talking.
We talked about how different it was to listen to the individual when they were wearing the clown nose, and how difficult it was to wear the clown nose and speak about something we are passionate about. This became an illustration for how we should relate to others. Typically, if someone disagrees with many of our firmly held beliefs, and has a radically different opinion, it is easy to consider that person to be stupid, or as we might say about politicians – they are clowns.
“What if,” I asked, “we looked at ourselves as clowns? What if we saw ourselves through the eyes of someone we disagree with? ” I believe this would make us sensitive to the opinions of the other, and would transform our communication, making honest dialogue with those we disagree with most possible. Perhaps the Golden Rule is found in the red clown nose. It causes us to see ourselves as others potentially see us. And isn’t this what we expect from others? That they would understand how it is possible for us to radically disagree with their views?
We repeated the clown nose example last night at Naumkeag Ordinary at the second of the (hopefully many more to come) Burning Religion Parties.
The clown nose may have a larger place in revolution than we might think.