In Damon Davis’s TED Talk, Courage is Contagious, he names fear and courage as having a contagious effect on people in groups. I think not only are those things contagious, they also cause movement in people to act. Act is part of action. Action is what people do, even if you think they are not doing anything. Action is walking towards something or walking away. Even inaction is an action. The stillness we exhibit to think or the standing by as something happens and we do nothing. Desicion to do or not do is an action.

Sometimes inaction causes us to jugde and place shame. Shame on the person who didn’t act how we thought they should act. Shame on them. Because if we were there we would have done something.

But what if doing nothing, inaction, is contagious? Then doing nothing can infected those around it. If fear is contagious and we believe that it is, should we shame others for catching it? Was it their fault?

Maybe they were never inoculated from it. Maybe it has already effected them so much their bodies are riddled with inaction.

We don’t shame others when they get cancer. Why shame someone when they are infected by fear? Perhaps, we can help them get treated. We can help inoculate them with courage. That would mean giving of ourselves to infecting another.

Can we do that?

Shame is thrown too quickly onto others who fail to act within at particular time frame; a matter of seconds. Or onto those who don’t act at all. Assumption and shame are precursors to the spread of fear.

Fear has three symptoms: fight, flight and freeze. You don’t know which fear you or someone else will get or how the body will react. All infections are like that. Unpredictable.

If we can see these contagious behaviors as changeable with support, care and love, then the infection won’t spend so much or so quickly.

We can help each other. I believe we all want to help each other. What infection inside of us keeps us from doing that?

My take away from these thoughts and Damon Davis’s talk is that we have the inoculation already inside of us. Courage. Two easy things we can do to get at it: search within ourselves or search for others who have it.

Look to Understand

Looking for hope and positivity this morning in the light of what happened in Charlottesville, VA yesterday, I searched through TED Talks and found a talk by George Monboit from 2013 on the Rewilding of the World. He stated (I’m paraphrasing) when wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995 an ecological change occurred that was unexpected: the deer population was reduced and their behaviors had changed. Because of this, various lifeforms returned : foliage, trees, beavers, ducks, otters, river banks, and bears to name a few. If you want to know more check out the TED Talk for yourself. What I took away from this talk was that humans should step back to see the larger picture of a situation to better understand it. We can look at the whole picture of how an ecological system works with all the animals being an important part of it for that system’s survival. We can also do that for understanding our human made systems. We can understand why people believe what they believe.

The clash yesterday in Virgina happened for many reasons, and I believe one of those reasons being that two opposing forces, two storms, had converged upon each other. Whenever this happens, destruction is left in the wake. There was never going to be a good outcome that day. I don’t think anyone expected the horror that happened. Barring the tragedy of one person being killed and tens of others seriously physically injured, the most likely outcome did happen: neither side was able to convince the other of their point of view.

You will never convince another to believe in your rhetoric; especially when they have their own. It is naive (overly bold) to think you can. The religious, sports fans, iPhone users will not be convinced that any other stance is better than what they hold to be their truth.

We need to step back to understand what makes others hold on to their beliefs. No matter that we think them wrong. They think the same of us. If we ask ourselves “how do I understand” instead of “how do I get them to understand” we will have more meaningful conversations. We will have fewer arguments and fewer clashes of storms.

I hope to have that question more in my mind, because I, too, make the mistake of wanting others to understand me first. That is my resistance towards them and in turn I will be met with their resistance.

When we make the statement “Help me understand what it is you believe” that can calm the storms. That can stay the cars from barreling through crowds. That can allow the others to feel respected and, in hope, reciprocate respect enough to listen to what we believe. Not to change minds but to understand.

Help me understand what you believe.