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Monologs with Murray, Day Four
09.25.02

CHANGING PEOPLE’S MINDS
7:57 AM 7/12/2002

I just had a wonderful dream
I was in a large hall listening to a middle aged nun at the podium.
She was fervently addressing the audience on her God and her faith, obviously seeking to convert unbelievers to come forward and join her order.
After listening to her for some time, I walked close to the podium and interrupted her.
“You are working too hard” I said, You are not convincing any one in this audience. You will be finding here only those who already believe as you do. You are not changing those of us who have other beliefs .”
She looked at me startled at the applause coming from the people who had overheard me.
I left after the lecture was over,
I was in the lobby as people came up to me to agree with what I had said,
The nun came by in her black habit and paused to thank me for my contribution, obviously shaken.
Later as I walked by a window I could see the nun in her little room .
She was at the far end sitting on her bed. full of thought.
There was a large cross on the wall.
I spoke to her through the window.
“you must not doubt the importance of your mission”, I said.
” You are finding those people who believe as you do, but did not know where to turn , You are giving them a voice and a haven that they did not know existed. They have longed to hear the message you give. You are doing your God’s work. You must look at it just a little differently, that is all” She looked up at me and smiled.
As she did, a little piece of paper fell off the cross, fluttered about as it fanned itself into a paper airplane, soared slowly about the room and at last reached the window and fell into my hand.

This parallels an incident that actually happened back in 1967.
The Vietnam war was raging on and there was growing opposition in the Democratic party to President Johnson’s pursuit of this ugly war.
The only Democrat of stature who was willing to challenge him was Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota.
There was a small group of us in a N.J. town, who were going out, door to door, with petitions to get McCarthy’s name on the ballot.
At an early morning meeting, I could sense the fear of doors slamming in our faces as we tried to convince people of the importance of their signatures.
I said, “Look, you are not going out to change anyone’s minds. Gene McCarthy’s name has been all over the media for months now. People have already decided how they feel about him.
Your job is simply to find the ones who want him on the ballot and get them to sign. If they won’t, thank them nicely and go to the next door.”
Thoroughly relaxed, we went out and did our job.

It has been my experience that words never change people’s minds.
There is a wide gap between being “open minded” and “having the courage of your convictions” both of which are urged upon us by our culture.
Our convictions are part of our ego and to have them challenged becomes an attack upon the person we believe we are.
To convince your friend that he is wrong is like a surgical procedure and must be done with compassion. You must be aware that you inflicting upon him self-doubt and his feeling of being diminished in his own eyes.
There a painful void that you have created as you remove his dearly held ideas. He has to deal with the self-doubt and ache that comes with it.
Be aware that he has not yet accepted your ideas. He has yet to heal from the wounds to his ego. How could he have permitted himself to be deluded for so long?
He has cherished a belief and for years, defended it against all comers.
And he was wrong all the time!
This must be devastating.

That is why Arthur Schnitzler said,
“The first responsibility of a gentleman is to preserve his friend’s illusions.’


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