Better Together, Part 1: “There’s Only You and Me, and We Just Disagree.”

How did we get to be so politically divided?

It seems like a simple question, but I’ve yet to come across a definitive answer.

I believe it comes down to the fact that it’s impossible to put oneself in another’s shoes. Perhaps our views would change if we exchanged backgrounds and life experiences with a person on the other side of the political fence. Who knows? 

One thing is sure. Each person has a unique context through which they view the world.

Think of the times someone misinterpreted something you said or recalled a shared experience differently. No two people ever read the same book. We interpret what we read (and what we see) in the context of our perspective. 

I realize my thoughts and background differ from others. Yet, I consistently fall into the trap of assuming my experience of events is the same as theirs. This is a source of considerable conflict.

Outside events are not “givens”; they are co-created by happenstance and our own unique context. Maybe this is a design feature of reality. In quantum physics, the method of observation determines what is seen.

Differing contexts create differing truths. What one person regards as true may be totally rejected by another. Opinions regarding the January 6 hearings and the Mar-A -Lago FBI raid are good examples. 

When we judge other’s views through the lens of our own perspective, they can look ignorant or unhinged! We look the same to them. Individual perspective restricts us from experiencing our shared humanity. 

When I listen to friends from the “other side” make their case, it seems like they pull facts from an alternative universe. We see what we believe! “Fact-checkers” have no impact.

We’ve reached a point in the United States where compromise is unlikely. Half the country sees things one way, the other half in an opposite way. Worse yet, many feel the “other side” is driving the country to ruin. 

This is a dangerous situation. 

In the introduction to this series, I made a bold claim. I stated that we must learn to see differently to heal our separation.

Constructive change in the United States will not come from changing our thoughts or beliefs. It will only come through a shift in perspective or how we see. Rather than viewing the world from the perspective of self-interest, we must learn to see from the perspective of our shared humanity. 

Is that even possible? 

Probably not completely, but each step we take in that direction will help!

A smartphone camera provides an excellent example of the “anatomy of conflict” that besieges us.

Let’s say we view a beautiful sunset and pull out our phones to take a picture. When we examine the results, the picture never looks like what’s in front of us. Rather than the real thing, it’s merely an image produced by a tiny computer using an algorithm to convert photons into a picture. Have you ever noticed that photos taken with an iPhone differ from those taken with an Android? That’s because of differing proprietary circuitry and algorithms!

No one is surprised when smartphone pictures don’t match up. However, we are always amazed when we find we interpret events differently from others. 

Consciousness operates from context. Our unique context is the algorithm that creates our reality. We see what we believe. Here’s a recent example: 

I was running late one morning and suddenly (and erroneously) remembered that I had failed to put gas in the car the day before. I distinctly remembered the gas gauge reading empty. What I failed to see that morning was the gas gauge registered full. Turns out I had filled the tank the previous day. Nevertheless, looking at the gauge, I saw what I believed. Hurriedly I pulled into a filling station and was flabbergasted when the car wouldn’t accept any gas!

Context creates the reality we experience, and that’s just the beginning.  

Consciousness is built on sensory information that enables us to distinguish one thing from another, for instance, hot from cold, light from dark, and coarse from soft. 

The ability to make distinctions is crucial to our survival. As we mature, our ability to distinguish between events and draw inferences from those distinctions becomes increasingly fine-tuned. A good example is meeting a new person. Within a few seconds, most of us make a judgment regarding mutual compatibility. 

We see what we believe and make rapid judgments based on what is seen. This self-created context is baked into our beliefs and behaviors. The context of a ranch hand from Montana differs from that of a cab driver from Manhatten. Is there any wonder why we disagree?

Seeing the world through the unigue perspective of self creates an illusion of separation that blinds us to the unity of our existence. 

We must first learn to see through new eyes to heal our separation.


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5 Replies to “Better Together, Part 1: “There’s Only You and Me, and We Just Disagree.””

  1. Good start— long ways to go— really tackling a basic part of human philosophy and that is “opinion made through observation”. The problem being is two people can have different opinions after viewing the exact same observation—– because their own personal context is just not made up from one thing but millions of things seen, read, heard or experienced over their lifetime— and no two people could ever have the identical context because the longer each of us lives the more differences make up our context. Little children and babies have the closest context I know of !!

    So—- many times when I am talking to someone and we are talking about something together and there appears to be some hesitation on a subject matter—– I ask them to go to 50,000 feet with me and we both look down on this “thing or subject matter” from a far and thus not concentrate on the smaller aspects of the matter but try and take in the “whole of the matter”.

    It usually always produces more “common ground” as the view forces each of us to take in much more of the surrounding area of thoughts, history, perspective, ideas and feelings over a much wider base of our own personal “historical context” and it tends to have more overlapping moments with the other person’s “historical context”.

    It has always helped me out in understanding the world and the people around me !!!

    And it has helped them understand “me”—– and as you have said so many times. it helps all of us to get closer to “We”—– and that is where we all need to spend more time if we are ever to be successful dismantling our current divisive attitudes !!!

    The Wren.


    1. Excellent point! Always appreciate your thoughtful comments Wren. The only way we will move forward (since we won’t reach agreement on the surface) is to conclude that we are better together, as opposed to going our separate ways. We are no where near that stage yet. What I’m building to in this series is an “ask” for readers to accept our difference (not agree necessarily) then find that higher level “We” that you refer to. I prefer not to think of the consequences of failure to do that!




      1. You are right—- we have so many differences with each and everyone else !! It is very inevitable and should be seen as “the strength” of combining forces as we can listen and learn from each other versus tearing us apart. Back in our Pillsbury days I purposely set out to build my management team around me with people that had different backgrounds and different ideas and opinions but then tried to insist we listen to each other, learn from each other and then do a overall BETTER job for our Suppliers and Customers based upon making our decisions with as much different information and ideas as possible and coming to a consensus as to next steps and how to proceed….. The Political World and the reporting Media really struggles with that these days but America’s past demonstrates it can be done….and better as a Democracy then anyone else !!


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