I talk a lot about connecting with others and with the natural world around me in my blogs. Because, theoretically, theologically and in my gut, I believe that it's true. But when I step back and look at my life, I realize that I have a ways to go in making this a reality. The area I live in is not very diverse, and at the moment my circle of acquaintances not very large. There are reasons for this that I accept, but it does not mean I can't take steps to expand my world.

One way to do this is to consciously choose to listen to other voices, to be open to hearing what "an other" is saying. Suspending judgment and seeking to understand are necessary practices if I believe that choosing joy is for all of us. How can I know how my choices affect you if I don't have a relationship with, or at least an awareness of you and your needs?

Yesterday while perusing my Facebook feeds, I came upon a link posted by "The Great Renewal," a Facebook page seeking to encourage, inform and connect people interested in making the planet a healthier place to live. By posting links to innovative projects all over the world, the group hopes to support paradigm change by focusing on language, policies, laws, institutions, organizations and behaviors. Like many grass roots movements, it is starting small, with a potential to be a conversation and behavior starter. I appreciate being pushed in these directions.

The link that caught my eye described "The Great Green Wall," a project designed to block the growing Sahara Desert by planting a wide belt of greenery across the width of Africa. It's an amazing endeavour and made me feel hopeful about the power of vision and volunteerism in a place so distant from me. When I clicked on the link (you can find the video here) I did a bit of a double-take. It was posted on Al Jazeera, an international media group which began twelve years ago as the "first independent Arabic news channel in the world dedicated to providing comprehensive television news and live debate for the Arab world." (Quote is from the website here.)

Can I be honest? (I find myself saying this more and more these days.) When Al Jazeera showed up on my computer screen, I felt a bit uncomfortable. I was outside my traditional source of info, even farther removed than the BBC, which comprises part of my iGoogle page. There was a good chance that "opinions expressed" concerning politics and economics would be different from those of more mainstream western media that I'm used to hearing, perhaps even from those of NPR. Like most of us when encountering something unfamiliar, I was a bit wary. But neither do I want to insulate myself from the voice of the other, a voice that may have a very different perspective.

I've encountered different perspectives before, first traveling and then living abroad, but  once back in familiar turf, it's easy to slide into comfortable ways of thinking. It requires effort to seek out a voice that's different from mine, to engage in dialogue that may feel uncomfortable, to explore values and insights that are hidden from my sight.  Difficult, to engage with, but essential, if I desire being part of and encouraging a joy-filled community that has no borders.
Joe Canner
10/26/2011 02:30:46 pm

Good thoughts, Sue. I, too, am much better about theorizing about cross-cultural interaction and inclusivity than I am about actually practicing it.

Your comment about Al Jazeera should, among other things, serve to remind us that all news outlets have a point of view; some are just more obvious than others. What little I've seen from Al Jazeera would suggest that they've gone to considerable lengths to make themselves a respectable news outlet, albeit one with an Arab slant. I think if one really wants to understand what is going on in the Arab world and how Arabs think and why they do what they do, Al Jazeera would have to be part of the process. I doubt if they are any more extreme in their views on the subject than most American news organizations. Put the two together and you might get a balanced picture.

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