You Are Dichotomously Correct

Different points of view are swarming about. Our divisions have divisions. What can we do? Here’s an old story from Central Asia.

In Islam, the Nasrudin tales star Nasrudin, a character who plays the wise man or the fool to illustrate automatic thought patterns of the human condition. This is a story of Nasrudin and his clerk. (An identical story, starring the Big Rabbi and the Little Rabbi, is found in the Hasidic tales of Judaism.)

Nasrudin Becomes a Judge

Nasrudin had studied long and hard to become a judge and was finally ready to hear his first case. He sat at a table in the marketplace, his clerk beside him, ready to settle a dispute between two important men in the village. The villagers watched, eager to hear the resolution.

The first man rose and set out his argument, carefully checking to see that the villagers agreed with each of his points. He concluded, completely supported by the consensus.

Nasrudin stood up and said, “You are right!”

The clerk tugged at his robe, saying, “It is your job to hear both sides of the story.” Nasrudin agreed, sat down, and asked the second party to speak.

The second man used razor-sharp reasoning, ending with a brilliant story, to support the obvious truth of his position. Again Nasrudin stood up and said, “You are right!”

The clerk angered at Nasrudin’s hasty responses, shouted: “They can’t both be right!”

Nasrudin jumped to the top of the desk, and, louder than the clerk, shouted: “You are right!”

Being right is different in the marketplace than it is in our hearts.

In the marketplace, there is not only my point of view but those of everyone else. Each group is “right,” but few can be elevated to the station of “Right”. Many groups claim God is on their side.

But democracy is built on the ability of different sides to hear each other, compromise and move forward.

Wherever there is a significant divide, we must stand back to understand the other’s basic fears, needs, and wants. At the same time, we must consider our universal susceptibility to manipulation by fear, anger, hate, and greed tactics. We must also understand different kinds of power.

Then we lay it on the table. What do we feel and want? What do the other groups feel and want? What do we all feel and want? Now we negotiate. Negotiate. Negotiate.

Although my heart is similar to the marketplace, I get to decide what is right. Will I even care? Which “I” will be the judge? Will it be the still small voice of conscience, the whisper of Spirit? Will it be my selfish persona, with its focus on winning the pot for me and mine?

Considerations of the heart belong in the marketplace as well.

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