Allowing space for tolerance
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

February 23, 2014

Here in Curacao, there are a lot of roadside shops, often referred to as snacks. Driving at night, you can often spot them by their blue beer bottle labeled walls, neon lights, and a few patrons hanging out front, and or sitting on a couple of plastic chairs. White wrought iron bars cover the counter, leave a small window for exchanges of goods including liquor, beer, cigarettes, pastries of cheese and meat referred to as pastechies, and assorted bins of candy. Despite their uniform regularity on the roadway and appearance, each of them reflects a single family business and therefore a unique flavor to the island culture.

I found myself sitting at such a snack a few weeks ago. Sitting under the portal looking out over a few palm trees and a roundabout, I was enjoying hanging out with two friends at the end of the night. The lack of traffic and gentle rustle of wind through the palm trees made for relaxing conversation and easy-going end to the evening. The night would not have stood out in my mind apart from other nights if it weren’t for what one of my friends said.

He told us a story in which he was often confronted with people with separate opinions from his own. Beyond the strife of getting through conversations, he said the most important thing he found to be valuable and relevant through the whole process was to “agree to disagree.” It is such a simple saying and perhaps anticlimactic in the world of debate. But if one dissects the true meaning of it, it is a truly powerful tool of tolerance.

Anyone can observe a viewpoint that they do not agree with. The world is riddled with contradictions and separate opinions stemming from unique cultures generated from separate histories. If I met you on the street and talked long enough to you, there is probably something we’ll disagree on eventually. But how would we handle that juncture? Often it ends by, “but your wrong,” or a “to be continued moment,” and sometimes sadly in violence.

If however, we are able to “agree to disagree,” it means two things. One is that I observe your perspective and have attempted to understand it. One has to understand a perspective to really disagree with it. Only through patience and a real desire to see someone else’s viewpoint, ahead of pushing ones own agenda is understanding even remotely possible. This is incredibly difficult, especially when driven by our own conviction of being right. The second is to agree to let someone else’s opinion be. The contradictions that we saw yesterday and those that are present today, will most certainly be around tomorrow. There will always be different opinions and to say “OK” to that, is to agree on something, even if it is only the space for each other’s thoughts, values, and ideas. If this can be achieved, it provides a foundation of tolerance and allows the possibility of future conversations discussing the topic, not as right or wrong, but with genuine curiosity.

There are of course basic human rights, and we may not be able to “agree to disagree,” with people who violate those rights, but in terms of religion and personal opinions, is seems to me the world could benefit greatly from the concept of agreeing, to disagree.

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