“What am I missing?”

If there’s one question I want to persuade you to ask more often, its “What am I missing?”

“What am I missing?” is not just any question. It’s the question. It’s the doorstop to put down in the hallways of your mind, pathway after pathway to keep open possibilities from slamming into harmful assumptions. 

Answering it is not easy. For starters, we can’t look it up. There’s no textbook to consult to tell us just the things we don’t see. It’s not in our phones, and Google can’t run the search for us. There’s no algorithm, either, to make it all “frictionless.” When you’re going with the flow of a divided world, you can’t get a clear picture of what’s around you. What you do make out is too warped to trust, transformed by the echoes in our silos and the shared animosity we feel toward groups of people on the other side of countless issues – groups that merge into one big enemy we fight. Sorting, othering, and siloing narrow what we see while convincing us we see enough.

So…yeah. We’re missing a lot.

It’s not for lack of interest, though! And that’s where I see hope. I see it in the growing number of people who sense our shared blindness and are done accepting it, done waiting for this dangerously divided world to undivide itself. I see it in how we’re looking inward, to the patterns of our thinking and the rhythms of our relationships. And I see it – from sea to shining sea – in the quickening drumbeat of posts and op-eds from people who are waking up to their own place in this toxic equation and helping the rest of us find our power to change it. Or, at least, our resolve. “I’m as guilty as the next person, but I have vowed to open my mind, stop yelling at my television set, and start becoming a better listener,” wrote liberal David Weinstein in California’s Laguna Beach Independent. “These are challenging times, but that is when patriots show up to do the tough work to make our country stronger,” wrote conservative Lenny Mirra in the Valley Patriot in Massachusetts. “You have nothing to lose but your mistrust.”

To keep our minds open when so much pushes them closed we’re going to have to kick it old-school. We’re going to have to talk – really talk – with actual different people. This is the work. 

From “I Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times” by Mónica Guzmán