Last night I had one of those dreams that began as a dream and evolved into a vision. In the dream, I was speaking with a class of university students at a school somewhere in India. One of the students asked me a question as to how we address one particularly difficult social issues in the U.S.. Not knowing the motivation behind the question, I responded in a very matter of fact way. To my surprise, immediately following my response, the young person bolted from the room.
The dream then became a vision, and I flew, looking down over the city, to the student’s neighborhood. As I watched, the pain caused by my very truthful response to the student’s question, spread rapidly through the community. Shock and dismay turned to anger, and there became a very real possibility for violence.
At that point the dream reset, and I watched myself very tactfully respond to the student’s initial question by stating, “No matter how I respond to this question someone in the room may well feel hurt or angry. What am I to do?” I could clearly see the wisdom in this response, and knew, even in the dream, that it ran contrary to my Western academic training, as well as person inclination. Indeed, my behavior in the dream represented a form of cultural arrogance which, although totally unintentional, had very painful consequence.
This morning, the dream is still close, and I am more aware that in any multicultural encounter, there is great opportunity for both tact and hurt.