‘A Ritual to Read Each Other’ by William Stafford (1914-1993): Conflict Poem

This blog stresses the importance of empathetically but accurately obtaining an accurate ‘theory of mind’ of the other side in any conflict, so I really liked this poem. Thanks to my fellow Jon Haidt admirer John F for this:

A Ritual To Read To Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give—yes or no, or maybe—
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
—William Stafford

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Stafford_(poet)

William:

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About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Conflict Poetry, Conflict Processes, Creativity and Conflict, Marital and Relationship Conflict, Neuro-science of conflict, PERSONAL CONFLICT RESOLUTION: CREATIVE STRATEGIES, The Conflict Model, Ways to handle conflict and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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