to build a house

I told mom that Tommy is a keeper. (Not that my opinion really matters, but it is nice to meet him and discover that I like his sense of humor and appreciate his integrity.)
He’s got an amazing mental focus, evident in his stories and daily interactions. He credits his mom (who “never thought no harm of no one”) and Jesus Christ. Tommy is blessed with great health and has had incredible good luck (as well as plenty of horrible experiences that might have more deeply wounded a lesser person). He loves his work – forty-five years as a teacher and still going strong! Tommy is walking testimony to the positive effects of following one’s passions.
He built a house, by himself, when he first started teaching in New York during the 1960s. Seven thousand square feet, mind you, with no prior experience. As I listened to him recount various anecdotes about buying the land (a killer deal), refusing shoddy or haphazard assistance (nothing beats one’s own craftsmanship), resisting the collective jealousy of many who wanted him to fail, and connecting with children despite adult animosity…I thought to myself, we are rather alike, he and I. Not because of these particular experiences; mine have been different, less extreme and/or targeted in alternative ways. Rather, I think Tommy and I both have some kind of internal drive that anchors a conviction in our own perception of the world. I am not claiming that my views are more right or better than others, but that believing and adhering to them has been an effective strategy for me to arrive in (at least some of the) places I want to be.
I woke up this morning thinking about conflict: why it happens between individuals and what “it” is that occurs, the phenomena itself that we label “conflict.” I know a bunch of analytical theories about why conflict happens, and plenty of communicative strategies for avoiding or resolving interactions that involve conflict. I believe conflict is an irreducible element of life. The challenge of conflict is balancing the tasks of managing oneself and respecting others. The mechanism of conflict is the meeting of two (or more) different interpretations of “reality” – the struggle is which version will take primacy. Collaborative relations have no assumption that one or the other viewpoint is more/less important or real than one’s own.
I am such a slow learner. :-/
Anyway, I related to Tommy’s story of building a house, both because I miss having a home to fiddle with, but moreso because the metaphor is suitable for my ambition. I want to build a house of ideas, a mental/social construction of possibility, a framework for interaction that enables collaboration as an equal alternative to hierarchy: a home of power with, rather than power over.

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