Even the most obscure ideas and actions come from somewhere. Rather than getting defensive, attacking, or ignoring, I recently read a good tip: seek understanding.

David Harvey writes: “It is irrelevant to ask whether concepts, categories and relationships are ‘true’ or ‘false’. We have to ask, rather, what it is that produces them and what is it that they serve to produce?” [1]

Thich Nhat Hanh elaborates a similar point with a metaphor: “When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change

The idea of seeking understanding rather than trying to change, is the key to change.

This applies to religious trying to convert atheists, to atheists trying to convert religious, or anyone looking at someone else with opposite belief systems or value systems to them-self; it applies to looking at criminals and to lawyers; to men and women, Venus and Mars, and to anyone doing any action or maintaining any institution that you find loathsome, incomprehensible or outright strange.

There is a reason that a person thinks what they think and does what they do. Even  sociopaths and psychopaths have some kind of justification for their actions – justifications which have developed through some kind of process.

Look at the outside influences and ask: who gains?  Seek understanding of the reasons for the strangeness, without blame, and (according to the book I’m reading) this is the key to change.

EG – how do you understand the situations below?


[1] David Harvey 1973 p 298; quoted in David Pepper, The Roots of Modern Environmentalism (London: Routledge, 1989).)