Hearing about my intended experiment, Evil Overlord goes on the attack. “This is stupid. What you are doing is stupid. Facebook is stupid.”
“You’re the one who said we are headed to war.” Over-Thinker responds.
“We are. What makes you think you can do anything about it? You need to duck your head and stay out of the way.”
“I can’t accept that.” Over-tryer says. "Besides all I'm doing is experimenting to see if we can have a nice conversation. Sheesh. I don't expect to change anything. I just want to see."
“It's stupid.” He responds.
I fall silent. The Evil Overlord’s comments do nothing to lift my depression. After a while he says “You know, you are really an ingrate.”
“What? Me? Why?” I ask.
“I’ve given you this amazing opportunity to escape, be free, live in peace, enjoy your husband, explore, have fun, and you are squandering it.” Evil Overlord has a valid point. I should probably just forget about it and go scuba diving.
We up anchor the next morning, fire up Sonrisa's trusty Yanmar motor and putter out of the Tual anchorage around the backside of Kei Islands to anchor near the long white sand beach. We have a little bit of trouble finding a spot that is good for an anchor. Not too deep, not too shallow, just right. Grin takes Andrew out as a scout, and we eventually find a place to settle the hook.
The anchorage is pretty. Colorful fishing boats zip by with friendly fishermen smiling and waving. We fishing huts are backlit by the afternoon sun, a giant church ashore catches the light on its facade. We have a perfect snorkeling reef within swimming distance,
As evening comes, Sonrisa settles herself into the perfect position to give us the full view of a stunning sunset. We nestle in our beanbags and wait for the show.
Here's the 180 Degree Sunset View.
I enjoy the sail and our new anchorage. The next morning, I go scuba diving. I try to forget. I complete my back roll, fall into the water, sink below the surface and…..Over-Thinker keeps a-goin’. Think, think, think, think, think, think…….I focus on my breathing to make sure my air intake remains low and that helps, for a minute. Then, think, think, think, think, think, think. It was a great dive, poisoned by thinking.
Back at Sonrisa, I pull the trigger and start the experiment.
At first, I thought I discovered that we absolutely can have a respectful conversation. My question inspired all sorts of people to start talking. Friends from all different angles gave interesting, nuanced, substantive answers. I received multiple private messages saying “Thanks for sticking your neck out. I would love to lead this kind of conversation, but I fear that I can’t.” Even after I intended to finish the conversation off and process what I learned, substantive, interesting comments kept pouring in publicly and privately. It was so encouraging.
Then, a madman purchased a hotel room on the thirty-second floor of the Mandalay Bay, in my city, and opened fire on a crowd of people who gathered to enjoy music they loved. I was awake at the time it started, processing pictures. Friends sent me updates via FB Messenger live time. My heart broke for my city, worried for my friends.
We go SCUBA diving again. (Grin says I can't use all the pictures for my post because he has something he wants to say about this.)
I return to Sonrisa and see my friends going at it with a whole fresh set of MEMEs about guns. Some were extremely disconcerting; this Meme is just terrible.
But, so are these.
All three of these MEMEs were posted amongst my friend group. All three of them are aimed at me. I happen to sit in the position of a person who owns and uses guns (in the US), but also thinks we aren't currently managing our right to own guns responsibly. I don't see it as an either/or proposition.
Again, I felt the discussion is dominated by two extremes who yell at each other rather than speak with each other. So, I opened a conversation again, starting from where my mind stood. I offered to let my mind be the one anyone can change if they make a persuasive enough point. I promised to consider anything anyone had to say and protect them from anyone who tried to silence them. And again, people spoke up.
This time, the conversation did not remain respectful. People wanted me to hush. I heard: “I appreciate what you are trying to do, but you are detracting from the message;” “Please stop, we need to build unity;” “You must call them on their errors of thought when you see it!;” “You are failing to see the obvious;” “You must delete that person’s thought from your page, it’s spreading fake news;” "you're either with us or against us;" "your opinions are wishy-washy, pick a side;" and “I’m worried about you, you should relax, you should not worry, dear.”
I also heard: "Thanks for leading this conversation. I want to talk about these things and think them through with my friends, but it's impossible to weigh in without being attacked." The whole thing annoys me.
Andrew and I visit the beautiful nearby village, see the enormous cathedral being built amidst a quiet, small town. Over-thinker thinks.
We play our new favorite card game, Wizard, with our dive guides and new friends.
Just before my birthday, I tried to bow out saying: “Thanks for the conversation, everyone. I’m going dark tomorrow. I will not be on the internet,” but when I checked one more time to make sure things died down, I found friends attacking other friends within my conversation. I had promised no one would get flamed for commenting on my question; I had to make good on my promise. I spent a good chunk of my birthday(s) on Facebook moderating between commenters because I lost control of my own conversation.
This experience was not enjoyable, but like passage making, the misery wasn’t for nothing. I learned about my friends motivations, the pains of their hearts, and the reasons behind the positions they hold. Their thoughts were valuable. In some instances, my resolve about my own convictions strengthened. In other cases, their thoughts deepened my own understanding of my original opinion and helped me think through practical application. In some instances, I actually changed my mind. My love and respect for my friends and humanity grew.
We enjoy another epic Scuba Day. We visit giant fan coral, see a sting ray, thousands of fish, and more giant sponges. Andrew has to fend off a too-friendly, too-curious, instant-death toting sea snake. We explore a fishing outpost with a very friendly kitty, and a beautiful white beach during our surface interval.
We invite our SCUBA guides and new friends Jan and Eva over to Sonrisa to join the birthday celebration. Andrew makes a delicious pumpkin soup, we enjoy two! bottles of red wine (a rare species here in Indonesia), and the wind dies enough to allow movie night in Sonrisa's cockpit - a viewing of Captain Ron. I am presented with the kindest collection of gifts and wrapping my friends/husband could find from our little outpost. Yes, Andrew's present is wrapped in our prettiest, purple kitchen towel.
My thirty-sixth year is starting off bittersweet.
As the conversation on my Facebook page tapered off, I thought I was walking away from the experiment with it being a moderate success. I had hope we could speak kindly about difficult issues together if we practice; I learned a few things that inform my professional interests in negotiation; I had some blog posts formulated.
Then, it sparked one of the worst fights Andrew and I have ever had.