In late December 2016 and early January 2017, I sent out New Year’s wishes with an “out of my bubble” invitation to many of my friend (yes, I know, cheeky, wishes with a “task” to do). Lots of things happened in between - 2017 began, Donald Trump became president, Roger Federer won the Australian Open, a pine marten who stopped the CERN particle accelerator was included in a museum, a baby donkey has been born at my neighbor’s and a few other things. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the topic of “bubbles” is even more topical now than in 2016.
Also, more than 40 people, from Seattle, through Calgary and Normandy and London, Berlin, Prague and other places and all the way to Sydney responded to my invitation. I also got lots of encouragement. Thanks very much for that (some of your encouraging comments are in the wordcloud).
Many people are curious to hear how it went. This blog is a summary, followed by four more detailed blogs on the different points. The intent is to share with all of you how it is going and to ask you for ideas and advice on how to go forward. It is also a “report” to the “shareholders” of this project, people who have invested energy and time into this. (And on the more material side, as promised, the bottles of wine go to Pavel, Melodie and Shana, and a bubble maker for everyone who participated or will participate.).
So, here we go: “first conclusions" from the “out of my bubble” challenge:
1. When it happens, it is eye-opening. When people do undertake “out of the bubble” conversations, they find it very interesting. Jean in Seattle talking to a Trump supporter, my Prague friend Marie talking to her uncle about Romas or me reading what another friend shares with me about Muslims and Europe - we find these conversations eye-opening, empowering, exciting. You can read more details in blog 1.
2. It is really hard to do ! Remember the ice bucket challenge in 2014, in which people poured a bucket of iced water over their heads to solicit donations for ALS? It was hard to do, but it took 30 seconds. It turns out that the “out of the bubble” challenge might be even harder than a bucket of cold water.
Why is it so hard? 1) First reason is that many of us find it difficult to find anybody from a different “bubble”. “I do not find a single person I know and can call a friend or a relative who is of the opposite view than mine. Talk about bubbles!!!” says my German friend Maja. 2) Second reason is that we just do not want to talk to the “other side”. One of my Czech friends wrote in capitals “I just DO NOT WANT to talk to them.” Many of you shared that your overall feeling about the “other side" runs pretty deep. 3) Third reason is that these conversations are highly emotional. My friend Malgosia in London drew my attention to the “frustration and despair” we might feel, as these conversations touch our identity, values and beliefs. You can read more stories why it is hard in blog 2.
3. The best motivation is … love! One of the most moving stories was shared by my Czech friend Pavel. Five years ago he met Vera, a wonderful woman in all respects, except her and her family’s views on Romas. Any discussion on that topic with them was a source of conflict - from Pavel’s side, their arguments were totally unacceptable and “reminded him of the Holocaust”. He even though about terminating the relationship because of that.
Pavel writes: “For me is is mainly about working on myself, to be aware of one’s own personal story, the unconscious sources that lead me to action. Once you see that, you see that the same happens for everybody - my partner, my family, friends, nations, Asad, Putin, Trump … It was all a trial and error process. “
You can read Pavel’s story in blog 3.
So what’s next?
What’s next? The promised “bubble” party will take place in Prague - Suchdol on Friday February 24th. I encourage you to continue sharing your experiences with me.
I have got a few ideas how to take this forward AND I would love to hear from you about your ideas. Mine range from just continuing the conversations (if you can), privately cultivating respect and intellectual humility, maybe transforming the project into “how to convince” or into a more collective meeting rather than one to one, why not digital, online or maybe just writing poems? And what are some of your ideas? More about all this in blog 4.
On a personal note, of course this initiative is taking time and energy. There are days when I think this whole project is useless and I should rather be doing something else. And then I get some nice email or phone call from one of you or read about organizations with similar goals and I get encouraged again. So we shall see where this will take us.
Thanks for reading a have a lovely day (my neighbor’s baby donkey photo as a bonus for reading all the way to here).