#7: Open-Ended Prompt
Each time I dance I am becoming more of who I am. That is why I adore dance. It is one of my most natural expressions. It is my most authentic response to my creator. I know I am in a relationship with God when I dance before the pulpit. I dance with all my might. Likewise, I debate with that same fervor. I throw down the gauntlet. My mission is straightforward: pillage the other person’s point. Church and debate fill my life with wooden pulpits and iron podiums. From the pulpit comes a message with which the congregation agrees. From the podium, I hear a message where I am expected to offer a resounding retort. In church we nod, sing, clap and dance as forms of agreement. We also celebrate with choruses of “Amen!”, “Alright!”, and “Hallelujah!” However, in debate, it is always my responsibility to listen and to disagree. I hear what someone says and reflexively say the opposite. I have found that polar opposites, agreeing and disagreeing, can actually converge and shape who I am.
Many see agreement as simply leading to conformity. I disagree. Agreement has afforded me the opportunity to experiment with new ideas and formulate deeper understanding. One day, my dance teacher introduced the exercise of meditation. It seemed that most students had meditated before because of their immediate compliance. However, meditation did not fit my personal disposition because it seemed so passive, in nature, to me. Though hesitant, I forged forward. I put aside my disagreement toward the activity and chose to buy in to my teacher’s sales pitch. By the end of our first meditation, I was not totally sold, but I continued. Within a month’s time, I had become a member of a community of meditators. Agreement has led me to deeper relaxation and a more contemplative temperament. This may seem like a simple incident in a high school dance class, but I’m learning that moments between dances and debates can offer great reward.
Disagreement is rarely relaxing, but it has protected me from falling prey to blind acceptance. In conversations with friends, I often hear a word spoken that is now claimed by many to be an embrace of Black culture. I disagree. As generations of people before me, I view this racial epithet as demeaning and vile. Even though it seems to be in fashion, I will not agree to use it in casual conversation. Nor will I get into heated debates in hallways when I hear it. I have learned that disagreement can take the form of a personal standard rather than a constant call to verbal combat. Disagreement, I believe, must be delivered civilly if you want others to hear you. In the case of this epithet, my steadfast disagreement has kept me from using a word that completely opposes my moral code. In speaking up and setting a different personal standard, I have presented a new perspective to some of my peers. As a result, this has somewhat reduced their cavalier use of the word which I consider a turn for the better! I have discovered that I have the ability to persuade others through more thoughtful and authentic communication. I now see the greater benefit that holding to some of my long-standing convictions can reap.
My greatest desire is to be an intentional force for good, and this internal debate between pulpits and podiums has helped me in becoming that person. I anticipate that there will be some beliefs that I will adhere to, and rightfully so. Conversely, there will be ones I will put aside in order to participate and learn. Being able to dance between agreement and disagreement is what I have discovered I love the most.