From the President



The internet blew up a couple of weeks ago over what seemed to be a simple recording.  The voice on the recording said a single word over and over.  The word was – well that is where the fuss arose.  Some people heard the voice clearly repeat “Laurel.”  Some people heard the voice clearly repeat “Yanni.”  The resulting furor was reminiscent of “the dress” image a few years ago, where some said the dress was black and blue, while others said it was white and gold.

Without a doubt, it was Laurel.  Or Yanni.  I heard the former and was surprised when Diane said it was clearly Yanni.   I starting thinking “how could she ever have heard anything else but “Laurel!”  I’m sure she thought there was something wrong with me for not hearing what she heard.  We both heard the same recording, and we both were adamant our interpretation was correct.

Our country is deeply divided.  Those who consider themselves progressive cannot understand why those who consider themselves conservative hold the beliefs they do, and vice versa.  This ideological division is mirrored all over the world.  We have become a divided world.  One nation or ethnic group or religion holds views diametrically opposed to some other nation or ethnic group or religion.  Our divisions all too often results in violence or oppression.  Perhaps this is the way things have always been, but at least in the United States, it seems that it wasn’t always this bad.  We seem to be unwilling and unable to see any merit in the other side.

The New York Times posted a “tool” on Facebook to help Yanni people hear Laurel and Laurel people hear Yanni.  It was a simple slide.  Starting with slide in the middle, if you moved it one way you would clearly hear Yanni, move it the other way and you would start to hear Laurel.  The tool worked by boosting or attenuating certain frequencies that made up the voice.  I was astonished to hear “Yanni” as I moved the slide to one end.  The interesting thing is that as I moved the slide back to the middle I kept hearing “Yanni.”  I had to keep sliding until “Laurel” finally came back.  Returning the slide again to the middle resulted in a verbal jumble.

It would be wonderful if there was a tool for the divisions in our country and the world.  If people on one side of an argument could just slide over to the other side for a moment, perhaps we would start to see the merit of the position opposite to our own.  Returning to our own position on the other side, it would be harder to see the other side as absolutely wrong or our side as absolutely right.  If we recognize the value of our opponents’ view and they did the same with ours, we could cooperate and compromise.  We could elevate respect and restore courtesy.  We could advance those values where we have common ground.  We wouldn’t be so quick to criticize or dismiss opinions other than our own.

I’m not sure there is such a tool, but if we are to survive as a country or a people, we had better start working on one.