In the days prior to organized sports, and long before radio or television, people had to determine valid ways in which to entertain themselves. They enjoyed reading, music, dancing, plays... and, they enjoyed talking.There was the usual chit chat and gossip; but, there was also organized conversation exchanges in which people traded ideas and thoughts. Some of these gatherings were based in the church, some in government, and others were simply collections of friends and acquaintances who met in order to discuss events of the day, the dreams they had, and the plans they hoped to see to fruition.In the Middle East, a gathering of like-minded men joined together to learn at the feet of a great teacher. They became known as Apostles.In Rome, the organized discourse of the Senate guided the day-to-day affairs of the citizenry. Over time, as Rome fell and new civilizations replaced them, Rome became the seat of the Catholic Church and the Council of Cardinals assumed the role of deliberators of discussion.As Protestantism took hold, ordinary people met in homes and churches to debate the principles put forth by Martin Luther. The discussions last to this day as we humans try to understand our relationship to our Creator.Through time, people continued to come together to talk about literature, religion, government and science. Though the discussions could become emotionally charged, the participants knew that in order to discover the best ideas, in order to sift through the misconceptions and discover the truth, they would need to do more than talk - they would need to listen. It is by listening that they heard errors in opposing positions, and discovered strengths in their own.That, I fear, is the problem in our current society, we have forgotten that discourse involves two-way communication. We are all so intent in proving our own point, making sure everyone understands why we have the best position, we forget that there is validity in almost every stance and viewpoint. But, when we stop listening and shout to be heard over those who oppose us, we start to miss the important truths and facts that our opponents put forth.Government is, by its nature, a contentious place. One gains a position in government by appearing superior to one's opponent. Unfortunately, if a candidate isn't really superior, it's become commonplace to make one's self look better by making the opponent look inferior.I got an email this week about a quote from a gentleman who was a six-time candidate for President running as a Socialist. I won't dignify the quote by repeating it, since a few moments of research revealed that the fellow never actually wrote such a comment, never made it in any speech, never entered it into any personal documents. When I pointed this out to a friend, she responded, "Can you prove he didn't say it?"That's not a good way to make a sound argument. Whether in science, math, or debate, the burden of proof falls upon the one making the assertion to establish the validity and truthfulness of the claim. One should never have to prove from the reverse,,, that is, that it must be true if you can't prove that it isn't.Discourse is one of the most valuable tools a civilization has in order to progress. It is unrealistic to think that the methods of discourse are not going to change as our culture and our technology changes. Thus, discourse can include blogs, Twitter, facebook, web sites, text messages and more. But, it is vital that we remember that discourse means the civil exchange of thoughts, ideas and propositions. And, an exchange means that both sides give, and take. The speak, and they listen.In our current climate of fabricated truths, nonstop commentary by pseudo-newscasters and immediate transmission of inflammatory rhetoric, I think it's more important than ever to refocus our attention on the need for reasoned discourse. If we don't start exchanging ideas rather than spinning propaganda, we will all suffer. And, it all begins by listening.
It’s all just my opinion.