Sesame Street… making a mission out of “loving struggle”

If you haven’t seen the documentary The World According to Sesame StreetI urge you to do so! What a beautiful example of people struggling in a compassionate, respectful way to try to make the world a better place.


No one said it would be easy!

Of course, no one ever said that peace would be easy! That is why Jaspers said it would take a “loving struggle”.

Here is another example of people trying to make that “loving struggle” work – for their children and the future of their people.

Another borderland…

Shadya (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

Anzaldua focuses on the experience of the mestizos… people who live on the borders between two worlds, two cultures. She talks of the stuggle that those who live in the margins have trying to reconcile the conflicting messages, expectations, and values that they face daily. They stradle two communities that are often at odds with one another.

It isn’t easy to live on the borders. Anzaldua makes that clear. However, she also points to the possibility that is presented if these inhabitants of two worlds can learn to accept both sides of themselves and turn the border into a crossroads.  Perhaps the future of our species is in the hands of these border crossers. By being both of the group and strangers at the same time, they are placed in a unique position to negotiate the differences and explain the problems with a view from both sides. Perhaps, they hold the key to a successful resolution, if we would only seek them out and give them a voice instead of pushing them back and insisting that they choose one side or the other.

Anzaldua focused on the borders that are most alive in her life, but we find these borders any place people with different identities come into contact. Watch as one border resident struggles with her identity in this interesting documentary:

What follows is a brief description of the film:

“Like many 17-year-old girls, Shadya Zoabi enjoys listening to music and hanging out with her friends. But unlike most other girls, Shadya is also a world champion in karate, a feminist in a male-dominated culture, and a Muslim Arab living in Israel. Shadya tells her story over the course of two years, as she journeys from teenage girl to woman, from daughter to wife, and from one family to another.

Shadya is lucky to have grown up with a father who wanted his daughter to be free to practice karate and develop her talent in the sport to the fullest. But despite her father’s support, the social pressure from her brothers and the surrounding community is difficult to overcome. In her brothers’ view, a Muslim woman has a specific path in life and is forbidden to stray from this destiny. At the same time, Shadya is grappling with the challenges that Muslims face as citizens of Israel. Her internal conflicts intensify when she meets the Palestinian team at an athletic competition, and when she prepares for marriage at the height of her career.

At the start of the film, Shadya, the 2003 World Shotokan Karate Champion, is full of optimism and self-confidence. “I’m different,” she says. “This is the way I am.” But will she succeed in balancing her aspirations after her marriage? Will she stay true to her promises to never give in and continue competing in karate? Depicting a universal conflict between tradition and modernity, Shadya is the coming-of-age story of a young Muslim woman who desires to succeed on her own terms while staying committed to life within her community.”

Knowledge is the beginning…

I’ve been focused on Jasper’s idea of the “loving struggle”. As I delve deeper into my thoughts on the matter, I find myself thinking about the struggle. If I look for a definition of the word, I find:

1. to contend with an adversary or opposing force.
2. to contend resolutely with a task, problem, etc; strive
3. to advance with violent effort

When I think of the word, I think of a resolute determination. Normally if a person is engaged in a struggle, they are refusing to give up or be beaten by the situation. I think this is a very important thing to remember when we think about the “loving struggle”.

When people engage in “loving struggle”, I believe they are showing some faith in their hope for a solution. They believe it is worth the blood, sweat and tears that might be shed before an end to the conflict is found. They will continue to struggle even if the odds seem stacked against them.  By entering into a compassionate or at the very least respectful dialogue with their adversary, they are keeping the door open.

Around the world, in conflict situations near and far, we can find brave, hopeful individuals who are willing to do what they must to foster “loving struggle” in themselves and others. One example of individuals trying to bring about change through an opening of doors is found in the East-West Divan Orchestra.

The orchestra is the dream child of two great men, Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim, and it is built around the reality of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.  Bringing together young musicians from thoughout the middle east (both Arab and Israeli), they are providing an opportunity for dialogue.

I give you a brief excerpt from the documentary which was made about their work. If you have an opportunity to watch it in its entirity, I urge you to do so! Although his partner, Edward Said, has died, Barenboim continues the work with the East-West Divan Orchestra.

Musical Meditation on the Loving Struggle…

We can work it out… We can work it out
We can work it out
Think of what you’re saying
You can get it wrong and still you think that it’s alright
Think of what I’m saying
We can work it out and get it straight, or say good night
We can work it out
We can work it out
Life is very short, and there’s no time
For fussing and fighting, my friend
I have always thought that it’s a crime
So I will ask you once again
Try to see it my way
Only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong
While you see it your way
There’s a chance that we may fall apart before too long
We can work it out
We can work it out

Exploring the loving struggle in our world today…

The bombed remains of automobiles with the bom...
The bombed remains of automobiles with the bombed Federal Building in the background. The military is providing around the clock support since a car bomb exploded inside the building on Wednesday, April 19, 1995. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I attempt to process the events that unfurled on January 6th, 2021, I have stumbled back upon some of my earlier reflections based on the concept of loving struggle. I thought this one in particular was worth posting again.


When I first read about Jaspers and his concept of loving struggle I had a bit of trouble getting my mind around it. However, with continued contemplation of the concept, I think I am beginning to get it.

Now, I seem to find the idea of this loving struggle echoing in the words of many people whose work focuses on peace and conflict resolution, and I am beginning to see why Jaspers thought our survival depends on our ability to enter into a loving struggle with others.

One place where I am repeatedly reminded of the importance of the loving struggle is the radio program On Being. This program from American Public Mediafocuses on “big questions at the center of human life”.  One recent program focused on forgiveness and revenge.  As I listened to the guest, Michael McCullough, I suddenly found myself thinking, “He is talking about the loving struggle.” 

McCullough is a research psychologist whose work focuses on the social and biological factors involved in forgiveness and revenge. In his interview, he compared and contrasted situations in which individuals sought revenge and situations in which people offered forgiveness instead of revenge.  He looked at interpersonal situations, but he also extrapolated to global political examples, and he said that people seem to be hardwired to seek revenge when we are wronged, but  “if you can convince me that you’re safe, right, that I don’t have to worry about being harmed in the same way a second time, maybe I’m willing to move a little bit forward” and look for a peaceful resolution.

How does the perpetrator convince the victim that he/she is safe? By engaging in a loving struggle.  McCullough offers two wonderful examples. One figure of public forgiveness whom Michael McCullough writes about is Bud Welch. His 23-year-old daughter Julie died in the bombing of the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Another touching example comes from Uganda.  In both cases, by engaging in loving struggle, the cycle of violence is being broken.  It is worth a listen:

Thich Nhat Hanh and Karl Jaspers

As I contemplate Karl Jasper’s idea of “loving struggle,” I find that at least in my understanding, his ideas are quite similar to the ideas of Thich Nhat Hanh.  Both men recognize the importance of communication in the peace process. Both see that while it is not easy for us to enter into a dialogue with our adversaries, it is necessary if we are ever going to coexist peacefully.  We need to see the world from the perspective of the other if we are to have any hope of resolving conflicts.  As long as we negate the suffering of the other, there is a chasm that prevents us from showing them compassion. Why do I need to show compassion to my “enemy”? Because this compassion allows me to become a mindful listener.  If the other person/group believes that they are being listened to, that their point of view/suffering is being acknowledged, it can result in a lowering of their defenses.  They begin to open up and see that there might be a way towards peace and common understanding.

“loving struggle”

One of the central tenets of Jasper’s work is the idea of “loving struggle”.  It seems to me that this loving struggle ultimately allows for a world in which diversity is no longer viewed as a threat. A world where differences are embraced, and cultures can live together in harmony.  Thus, I bring you my musical vision of “loving struggle”.

Starting close to home…

By focusing on Jaspers in the chapter on communication, McCarty focuses our attention on communication at a community level. However, it seems if we cannot even communicate effectively with the people who are closest to us, the odds seem to be against us when we attempt to enter in a serious dialogue with “the other”  – people who have different cultural backgrounds, different worldviews, different value systems, and perhaps very little interest in hearing our point of view.

So, in the interest of exploring interpersonal communication, I turn to Deborah Tannen.  For anyone who is not familiar with Tannen’s work, here is a sample:

In this one, she is focusing on the communication between mothers and daughters. So many messages and metamessages there…