Making ‘sense’ of our conversations

by Karen Boyd

As I sit down to write this reflection, my mind and my heart are filled with a longing for understanding, forgiveness and peace between people in this nation. A wish that we could find a way to heal the deep wounds that have been inflicted on one another. I want to hear words from people who hold power that soothe and foster community, but I feel those are few and far between. It almost seems we fear having thoughtful conversations. Perhaps we fear discovering our firm convictions have room to change and grow. It seems so much of the way we view the world is a result of what we see and hear on the 24 hr news cycle and social media. It seems only natural that we would choose to see and hear those we agree with, we remain unchallenged and even vindicated.


We gather our information through our senses, mostly in this case, sight and sound, two of our well known five senses. The information comes from the world and we internalize what we see and hear. But, these five senses are not universal, they are cultural.


I was reading the other day about a group of people called Anlo Ewe, a group of about six million who inhabit the southern portion of western Africa. The Anlo Ewe recognize at least nine senses and rather than gaining information about the world from the outside in, they see information about their world from the inside out.


For example, one sense is balance. Before their children can even stand, they hold them up on their feet encouraging them to “Balance! Balance!” So by the time they are two years old their sense of balance allows them to carry pans of water on their heads. Another surprising sense that they recognize is the sense of speech. Speech can be a way of discovering what is in us, and if we choose our words carefully, our speech is moved along by thought. It is almost like carefully feeling your way along in a dark room.


All of this made me wonder what might happen if we use a sense of speech much like the Anlo Ewe. In this way we could ask that the Holy Spirit be our guide as we use our speech to help us make sense of the world. Speech, in this way perhaps could be less dogmatic, less accusatory and far more open to unity, compassion and hopefully forgiveness and true community.

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