I’ve attempted to write several times in the aftermath of the election. I think many can relate to the sense of urgency to say something in response to the turmoil our nation is experiencing. Yet I’ve found myself becoming increasingly quiet and introspective as I wade through the deep trauma that is inundating our nation. I’ve been reading, watching, and listening voraciously. As I bear witness in the cybersphere - to ideas and positions and anger and fear and grief - I keep remembering the words of a dear friend: “Change happens because of relationships.”
This is not to suggest that laws and policy and protests and acts of solidarity aren't important. Equity within our institutions and day-to-day life demands all of these things. Yet the need to sit across the table from our fellow humans and have a meaningful connection and conversation also feels deeply nurturing and necessary. The challenge becomes inviting someone into your "window seat" with whom you fervently disagree, or with whom you feel painfully vulnerable, and find a way to move through that discomfort to a more enlightened place. For some, personal safety prevents us from engaging in such conversations - and that is tragic. For others, we lack the skills to navigate such conversation with integrity, respect, and compassion. Most of us were never taught as American children how to have really courageous and transformative conversations.
When I founded Window Seat Media earlier this year I wrote a statement of purpose that reflects my desire to foster opportunities to sit and listen that transform our world:
“Window Seat Media is an always-evolving experiment, trying our best to listen and effect social change. We work with communities, groups, and institutions to gather and share stories that express their values and traditions, suffering and aspirations. We do this to help build community resilience, strengthen cultural identity, and tackle complex challenges with creativity and commitment. Our purpose is to join with people and localities to help foster a hope and compassion.”
I believe deeply this mission. Yet I have been sitting with the seemingly impossible complexity of the practice I am compelled to cultivate. How could I possibly create spaces for deep human transformation through sharing stories? It felt more abstract and arrogant than ever. I should also say that have I no illusions of grandeur. I live a small life, in a small city, at the tip of a small inlet on the Puget Sound. I am just one person reverberating in this enormous human experiment. Yet aren't we all? And isn't how we choose to contribute to that cacophony what matters most? We all have the potential to be leaders in our own small and flawed ways.
In times of great uncertainty, the need for role models feels more important than ever. If we choose to listen, we will find people who are creating opportunities to cultivate compassion, understanding, and healing. They are driven by an innate curiosity and a deep need for discovery rather than truth. It takes an incredible amount of resilience to continue to peel back the layers of human fallibility, especially for those whose own human rights, dignity, and safety are at stake because of it. In my practice at Window Seat Media, I have found myself increasingly drawn to scholars like George Yancy, activists like Sisonke Msimang, story gatherers like David Isay, journalists like Krista Tippett and Al Leston, and world leaders like President Obama. These are people who choose to linger in the painful dualities of the human condition. And I am grateful to have people in my own life who model for me a compassionate discovery of our shared humanity, and who ground and steady me on this path ahead.
The idea of Window Seat Media being an “ever-evolving experiment” helps to free me from the immobilizing disease of apathy and disillusionment, and from the danger of visions of grandeur or fixed positions. Instead, it creates room for humility and error and flexibility, and it nurtures a commitment to curiosity and deep listening. How can story serve as a catalyst of social change? How can we create safe spaces to share our most painful or joyful experiences and our most deeply held values or aspirations? How can that sharing serve to transform the human condition? These are the questions we'll explore as we make our way into the uncertainty of the future. I don’t have the answers. Perhaps I never will. Perhaps that's the point. It is an endless journey of seeking and listening and learning.
I have much work to do, and I have never felt more awake. I hope you will follow along.
Founder + Curator
Window Seat Media