Drinks, Dissent, and Community Building

– written by Hearth Ember, Matthew Reese

I’ve heard academics use the term “contact zone” to describe forums for discussion. Contact zones are not comfortable. They are not environments where the participants should expect to be coddled. Contact zones are spaces where discussion can flow freely and participants are held accountable for what they say, pushing one another to take the conversation as far as possible. They are respectful, but intense. Individuals are never slighted (after all, ad hominem attacks are logically fallacious), but their ideas are carefully scrutinized. Oh yeah…and there might be beer.

Launching the new Hearth-to-Hearth article discussion series, I really wanted to find a way to have rigorous discussions within the Hearth about things that matter. When Miranda approached me with the idea, I thought about conversations I’ve had in which my interlocutor and I have fundamentally disagreed. Frequently, the most rewarding conversations emerge from a contested topic with a person with whom you strongly dissent. When treated respectfully, these conversations not only yield new perspectives and insights, but also create a better appreciation for “the other.”

The Hearth seeks to welcome people from various backgrounds, beliefs, and opinions. Sometimes, reconciling those differences is immensely difficult. Sometimes, you may leave the table shaking in a rage at some anathema you heard spoken. However, community is not easy either. People are not easy, but that’s all the more reason to speak with them.

We’ll meet again this month on October 26 at 8:00 pm to discuss Mark Greif’s provocative article “Get off the treadmill: the art of living well in the age of plenty.” Hope you’ll join us for drinks, dissent, and community building.

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