I am consumed by the question of being. What does it mean to be? How do we be with ourselves, fully and honestly? How do we be with others – and what is the potential of that inter-being? Is the capacity to truly be with another a skill set that some are naturally endowed with and others not?
The human condition is infinitely varied and complex in its expression. In my own experience, evolving my way of being has been an intentional and subtle process that has taken time and humility. What I’ve observed in this work is that deep listening and empathy are learned skills. Their apprehension is not necessarily a clear cut path, but rather a continuous process of self reflection and practice.
My guest today is Paul K Chappell. Paul makes a powerful point that while listening and empathy are natural human capacities, so is, for example, language. We don’t assume that because children already know language, there is no reason to teach it. Even though it is a natural ability we teach language through school and college. Yet empathy, listening, and related attributes of peaceful being are not taught – we have to figure them out for ourselves.
Paul is an international peace educator who serves as the Peace Literacy Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He is a West Point graduate who served in the Iraq War, leaving active duty as a captain. Today, he lectures across the United States and internationally, teaching peace leadership and literacy. He is the author of the seven-book Road to Peace series about ending war, waging peace, the art of living, and shared humanity.
Paul opened my eyes to some unique perspectives in this conversation. Having been a student of war, he emphasizes that we cannot cultivate a peaceful society if we are not serious students of peace. And he demonstrates how, ironically, it is the very qualities of empathy and love that serve as potent battlefield motivators.
Paul’s work in peace literacy spans 20 years and he has a unique gift for analogy and explanation. Please enjoy.