My godfather, Elwood Randol, was a raconteur. Erudite and possessed of a playfully sardonic spirit.
As a child, I was an inveterate questioner, oft, doubtless annoyingly to others, about the obvious. One day, I walked down our street (the Randols and Abernathys lived only a few houses apart) and espied Uncle Randol (that’s what I called him, for he was a close as a blood relation) washing his car. “What are you doing?” Without looking up, he smiled slightly and, with even voice, replied, “Playing bridge.”
Uncle Randol, among many things, wrote a weekly column for one of the local newspapers. Entitled, “It Seems To Me”, he would share his observations on current news. One day, noticing that he, a redoubtable liberal, read publications of decidedly conservative slants, I asked him why. Turning to me, his tone serious, he said, “If I only read things that agree with my views how can I learn anything else?”
I’ve never forgotten my Uncle Randol’s lesson. I still hear his voice and his stress on the word can. To this day, I research widely, often with especial focus on points of view that challenge, even contradict my own. I then reflect, wrestle with what I’ve read, at times, internalizing the argument, my inner voices raised in point and counterpoint.
This is rarely, if ever a comforting thing to do. Quite like walking a tightrope, particularly in moments when I’ve felt that I understand (and find myself standing between) competing positions of people in conflict. Nevertheless, I’ve found it a beneficial way to be. For me, it’s all about the balance of fairness.