Do We Always Need to Agree?


This column is about peace-making. Yet here is a thought: Do we always need to agree? Does every disagreement need a resolution?

Just imagine what it might look like if people always thought the same: at the ice cream store, there might only be chocolate (or was it vanilla?); at Starbucks, it could be all frappuccinos all the time; and at the U.S. ballot box, everyone would all just vote for the Democrats (or was it the Republicans?). Thankfully, the real world is not that way; otherwise, it might be quite boring, don't you think? Just a single perspective on every matter?

One story is told of a congregation where at certain points in the religious service, some members would sit while others would stand, thinking it more proper -- and both groups would scowl at each other, considering the other to be very wrong. At other moments in the service, those who had sat would now stand and the those who had stood would now sit -- and again they would look askance at each other in utter disapproval.

So upsetting was it to everyone that finally it was suggested someone go ask the community's eldest member, now living some distance away, what had been the tradition in his day. And so a congregant was sent to visit him and explained the community's predicament: some would stand while others would sit, and then the reverse -- each annoying the other to no end -- and no one could agree. "Please," he pleaded, "could you tell us what the proper custom is?" To which the elderly gentleman replied: "Well, yes, that's the custom!"

The moral of the story, it might be said, is that some things in life perhaps will never have a definitive answer. Sometimes people simply have different ways of thinking and going about things (as perhaps any long-married couple could tell you). And so the real question then is, how do we live with those differences? Maybe sometimes THAT is the goal.

What do you think?

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Joshua de Sola Mendes