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Our Best Conversations Satisfy and Anticipate

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They can satisfy a question we didn’t know we had.

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They can anticipate a question still on the horizon.

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Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

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Written by kirkistan

August 12, 2015 at 8:56 am

Stop On The Way

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Ask: “What do you see from there?”

Mostly we hurry from this to that.

In this season we move from party to party. At work we move from meeting to meeting, hardly stopping to breathe, let alone reflect or appreciate the unique spot we’re in.

We do this because we are crazy-busy (always the right response in our culture). And sometimes reflection is uncomfortable, especially between things. No one really wants to dwell in the space between. But the space between has things to say as well. Things you would never hear otherwise.

Always "crazy-busy."

Always “crazy-busy.”

We all know someone stepping between things. Maybe our friend has left a job or school or some relationship. Maybe we ourselves own some piece of life that has less than secure footing. All of us caught in between want the solid ground of the other side.

But we gain perspective by asking what we see from this liminal space. What does life look like from this uncomfortable, slippery place? What is important here—and should that thing be important when our footing is more secure?

Perhaps we do our friend a favor by asking what they see from that uncomfortable place—could it even be bit of mercy to ask that question?

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Don’t Provoke Me. Wait: Do.

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The Power of a Question to Shape Discovery

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Mrs. Kirkistan and I have been chatting about those people in our lives who show up with questions rather than answers. These are folks who wonder “Why?” and “How?” about the most ordinary, obvious things. We typically have great conversations with them even as they challenge, occasionally infuriate and often delight us. And quite often their questions and the acts they take to resolve those questions have a way of working into my brain through the week. And I find myself asking questions as well.

I treasure these friends.

I’ve been trying to understand a complicated philosopher whose writing was famously obscure. I recently came across two of his interpreters whose comments helped me flesh out the larger setting for this philosopher’s comments. Mr. Peter Dews and Ms. Diane Perpich helped me understand that there is more to Emmanuel Levinas than the Other and ethics as “first philosophy.” Ms. Perpich, in particular, has helped me begin to see that the stringent obligation Levinas puts on our encounter with the other may function less as an ethics manual and more as provocation. This makes terrific sense when I start to work out the details of my obligation to others (as Levinas might suggest). His comments become directional rather than prescriptive.31WVbhgiiOL._SY320_-04012013

But even with the insights from Mr. Dews and Ms. Perpich, there is something about Mr. Levinas that moves beyond directional-only. His provokements have a way of landing at the most inopportune times: making me question the bosses’ speech in the conference room or the story of the revered leader. Making me wonder at my own treatment of others, from driving to the simplest conversation.

Such provocation seems a good thing—perhaps I’ll be shaken from my comfortable rut.

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Image credit: marikapaprika via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

April 1, 2013 at 9:29 am

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