Something odd happened the other night: I got into a real argument with someone. I don't mean a conversation, or a dialogue, but an argument. And it felt really peculiar.
Me and this woman I know started off talking about something or other. We were at a small gathering at my nephew's house. We'd both had some wine (which I just typo'd as "wind" by the way, a phenomenon I briefly wrote about the other day) and we started to disagree when the woman made a declarative statement about being able to understand things that happened hundreds of years ago. I said that she could understand those things from the context of the present and that, therefore, all of our understanding of other places and other times was incomplete and approximate. I compared trying to explain things to someone from another time/place to trying to explain blue to a blind person.
Well, that launched us into a full-fledged argument: point, counter-point. Attack, parry. Scan for weakness, exploit. Techniques trotted out. Logic and emotion enmeshed. Listening for opportunity, not for understanding. All the things we do when we argue. About five minutes into this, it occurred to me how unpleasant it had all become. But we both kept at it: pushing whatever buttons we could find to gain advantage. The argument defused when I walked away, aware I was becoming too angry and in danger of losing my head.
I've been thinking about how sharply this contrasts with how I normally handle conflicts. There were several elements of the situation that led to its escalation, but the one that sticks out most prominantly is our unwillingness to grant one another any access to the truth: black/white; yes/no; for/against. Polarized. Unyielding.
It wasn't her "fault," nor was it mine...we were locked into something we'd both created, and unable to get out.
Like Dylan said 40 plus years ago:
It's a restless hungry feeling
That don't mean no one no good,
When ev'rything I'm a-sayin'
You can say it just as good.
You're right from your side,
I'm right from mine.
We're both just one too many mornings
An' a thousand miles behind.
A restless, hungry feeling...