A Third Path

in reading sally miller gearhart, i found myself in a perpetual state of deja vu. i kept wondering, as i moved through her words on change and rhetoric, fantasy and common ground, just where i'd read these words before. only upon finishing the reading did i realize the similarities between gearhart and wayne booth and bell hooks (might have a final project idea finally!). for example, when gearhart writes of how "communication can be a deliberate creation or co-creation of an an atmosphere in which people or things...may change themselves" (244), i see this echoing passages written by bell hooks concerning an acknowledgement of the academy not being a paradise, but that "learning is a place where paradise can be created" (teaching to transgress 207). furthermore, while paramount for gearhart is the discovery of a third path (more on that in relation to booth later), hooks similarly seeks the creation of community in the classroom. of course, this is also a difference between gearhart and hooks, as the former appears to seek this on an individual level while the latter works toward this with many at once. then again, i could be wrong about this because, right now, my reading of gearhart's rather limited.

about this third path, though, i have to wonder if anyone else saw connections to booth's listening rhetoric, that searching for common ground. i think gearhart goes further than booth, though, taking the conversation outside the realm of even civilized debate as she looks for "the joining point, the place where we are the same, where we can meet each other as beings who share the experience of living together on this planet" (267). and she gives many examples of her search, including a logging experience (interesting to note here her, i would argue, greater understanding than some other feminists of just what they're asking men to give up) and conversations with a homeless man and a shoeshiner. within each of these experiences, there is a great range of topic discussion, from "hints on flea control" to favorite bible verses (269). and what does all of this reveal to me? the enactment of listening rhetoric, the search for that third path, the establishment of common ground, requires a great deal of effort, incorporating not only a rhetorical education and audience awareness, but the ability to recognize sameness as much as difference. it can be an exhausting endeavor, but perhaps less so than acting/reacting out of anger and surely more rewarding.