The other side of life: Kittens And-Also SpaceTime

By : Jason Leclerc
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Jason Leclerc

When I was commissioned for this article, I was clear that I wanted to put the election behind us; my topic would be kittens.

So. Kittens.

With that settled and with smiles on our faces, let’s proceed.

By the time you finish reading this sentence, it will have passed into history. Not wholly knowing what words comprise the next sentence, you may meet them with hope or with skepticism. Memories, like the future, are imperfectly conceived, the former because we have acquired too much information and the latter because we don’t yet have enough. The only truth is the now and your interaction with these words; even that is fleeting. Thus, we all do our best to normalize our interaction with past, present, and future. Naturally, based on our experiences, we tend to favor those data elements that help build the narrative that reinforces itself as well as a world in which we, as individuals, feel comfortable.

Every moment of thought, whether we realize or not, is a balancing act between actual facts in space time and our perception of them. In a vast and growing universe of facts and ideas (internet of things, the Google machine, kitten videos), we are constantly challenged to choose. Binaries, the segmentation of the universe into easy contrasts – often characterized by an “either-or” mentality – is a handy tool that we have been trained to utilize. Unfortunately, binaries often become concretized by value judgments that may exist only tangentially to an issue at hand. In this construct we find it easy to use charged binaries like “good vs. evil,” “truth vs. lie,” “love vs. hate.” One of my favorites is, “gay vs. conservative.” Witness American politics in 2016. Save for a few of us, Clinton vs. Trump was a clear “either-or” choice.

A nuanced alternative that begins merely with a change in sentence structure – as simple as how we connect nouns and verbs – may give us a tool to move forward with a more open, collected mind. Replace “either-or” with “And-also,” to watch binaries crumble; watch meaningful discourse expand exponentially. Follow through with a mind exercise that makes the new sentence conceivably valid. Arm yourself with this new tool And-also take it into practice.

Sometimes the best start is with that smile – think kittens – as you dive into discomfort. Repeat these words, first into a mirror, and then in public. If you need to hide behind a keyboard as you master these words, that’s OK too. “And-also… And-also… And-also…”

Join me. “I can be factually correct And-also concede a civil argument.” Good start.

Now: “I can disagree with you And-also still love you,” is a little easier to imagine with a smile (And-also thinking about kittens), right?

Next, “I can appreciate the beauty and importance of civil protest And-also repudiate the premises upon which it’s built.” Take a breath; that may have been tough.

Take a moment and return to the easier: “I value history as a benchmark (think First and Second Amendments, for example) And-also conceive of a future that deviates and evolves from a straight line.”

OK, rapid fire:

“I can vote for Hillary Clinton along with the majority of Americans And-also accept that, in the current Constitutional reality, Donald Trump is the president-elect.”

“I can vote for Donald Trump And-also repudiate his (at best inarticulate) divisive rhetoric.”

“I can believe that Hillary Clinton is a heroic figure, unprecedented in what she has achieved as an American icon And-also not agree with the policy prescriptions she espouses for America.”

“I can be a proud, flag-waving American And-also be deeply remorseful for the atrocities – slavery, Native-American genocide, institutionalized discrimination – perpetrated in the name of America.”

“I can accept the American system And-also work within it to change it.”

And for dramatic effect, repeat: “I can disagree with you And-also still love you.”

A study of history tells us that factionalism and divisive rhetoric are the stock upon which our political system exists. George Washington warned us, Lincoln lived And-also died over it. Women and laborers and Catholics and African-Americans and immigrants and LGBTQ have been underrepresented in the data points evidencing full equality and citizenship: the slow evolution of what America is now. For that history, we should atone with the promise of the future. We should look back And-also forward. We should inform our present with the story of what America can be for me And-also for you.

In this season of gratitude, the interstice between the election and Thanksgiving, let’s reflect on our history And-also our future. In the spirit of Thanksgiving We give thanks And-also apologize: we celebrate And-also mourn: we hold firm And-also evolve: we are imperfect And-also perfecting.

Let’s look together, from this exciting period in history, back toward a great America And-also toward a bright future America.

Progressive And-also conservative. Hopeful And-also skeptical. Say one thing And-also do something different—we are all hypocrites. Hypocrites And-also sincere.

It starts with our hearts And-also our words as they describe a future that immediately informs our history.

Kittens.

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