Choosing New Paths

March 11, 2017

How does one break from a pattern of thinking?


This comes up often in mediation -- and it's not easy, especially when it concerns age-old conflicts, started long ago, often in another generation: Our fathers fought...and their fathers fought...and so must we. It could be never ending -- much like the Hatfields and McCoys.


Yet is this inevitable? Do historic fights have to go on forever? Is each new generation obliged to repeat the same pattern? 


Below are a few small examples of people who looked a historic conflict straight in the eye and simply chose another path, all on their own (no mediator needed). Perhaps their examples can offer some helpful lessons:


Two Koreas, One Photo

No two countries today may share such close cultural and genetic bonds as North and South Korea -- and at the same time stand so widely apart. Yet that did not stop two competing gymnasts at last summer's Olympics -- one from the north and the other from the south -- to spontaneously pause mid-competition for a quick photo together. While just a brief blip in time, it spoke volumes to many who saw the photo. For more on this chance moment, see here:


One Arab + One Israeli = Amazing Food

You could call this is a tale of two hummuses. Well, in fact it's just one recipe by two famed chefs: Yotam Ottolenghi,

a Jewish Israeli, and Sami Tamimi, a Palestinian Arab. The famed duo, two fast friends both born in Jerusalem, have teamed up in the past few years to do a lot more than hummus: they have published two best-selling cookbooks and currently own and run several London-based restaurants. To learn more about their amazing story, read here:


An Indian / Pakistani Rock Jam

They say music is a universal language -- and that seems true for the Indian folktronica duo Hari & Sukhamni and

Pakistani rock band Noori. Following a chance meeting onstage in Dallas, the mutually admiring musicians joined forces to produce and perform together, crossing borders in the process. The end result, a song titled, “Yariyaan,” was released on Pepsi MTV Indies. While not intended as a political message, Rolling Stone nonetheless described it as a "cultural handshake of sorts between the two countries." Read more about them here:


Music. Food. Sport. As we can see in the examples above, history doesn't have to be the determinant of the future. People have the power to choose a new path. Indeed, this is a core idea of mediation, which believes that the parties have what it takes to sort things out -- or as Glinda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz tells Dorothy, "you had the power all along."




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Joshua de Sola Mendes