A celebrated moral thinker and renowned Judaic intellect, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks died last week at 72 from cancer.
“The greatest single antidote to violence is conversation, speaking our fears, listening to the fears of other—in that sharing of vulnerabilities, discovering a genesis of hope.”
When Krista Tippett, On Being, spoke with Lord Sacks in 2010, he modeled a life-giving, imagination-opening faithfulness to what some might see as contradictory callings: How to be true to one’s own convictions while also honoring the sacred and civilizational calling to shared life — indeed, to love the stranger?
Krista: You’ve made a statement. I think it’s audacious: “The greatest single antidote to violence is conversation, speaking our fears, listening to the fears of others, and in that sharing of vulnerabilities, discovering a genesis of hope.” Now as someone who conducts conversation for a living, I love that statement. I wonder how you know that to be true — that the antidote to violence is conversation.
Lord Sacks: Listening gives each of the two parties the feeling that they are heard, and once they’re heard, they can then begin to speak what they really feel. And then they can begin to realize that there are things they still care about in common.
Sometimes I think what would happen if we generated real conversations at the grassroots level between the people whose lives are really affected?
The real conflicts arise when our minds are focused on the past.
I think God is setting us a big challenge, a really big challenge. We are living so close to difference with such powers of destruction that he’s really giving us very little choice. You know, to quote that great line from W.H. Auden, “We must love one another or die.”
So I am full of hope as we face the greatest challenge humanity ever has.