Some ideas or lessons stick with us through the decades. Religions offer plenty: We should treat others the way we want to be treated and we should respect our elders, to name two.
From my grammar school world, the Venn diagram is one concept that offers such a wonderful visual image that I think about it or rely on it with some regularity.
Do you remember the Venn diagram? It has two adjoining circles with a varying amount of overlap in the middle, and the theory can be applied to almost any circumstance.
Let’s start with sports, where passions are high, but the consequences of any single event or season are, relatively speaking, much lower.
Red Sox and Yankee fans would seem to have almost nothing in common, with two circles drawn as far away on a page as humanly possible. But each year there is at least one game where a Red Sox fan might root for a Yankee and a Yankee might root for a member of the Red Sox. Yes, think about it. The all-star game determines the home field advantage for the World Series. If the result of the all-star game was on the line and a member of the Red Sox could win the game with a home run, wouldn’t a Yankee fan begrudgingly cheer for that player in the hope that if our team made it to a seventh game of the World Series, the game would be at Yankee Stadium? There, we might get to see our team win a title instead of in a National League park.
From the passion of sports to the passions in our lives, a Venn diagram can also be useful in affairs of the heart. Let’s say you’re dating and you’re exploring similarities in your partner. Do you like the same food, books and movies? Do you have the same view on the importance of family, the role you might play in a community or the value of vacation time?
While all of these questions might lead to a better understanding of where you have common ground, marriage counselors or even dating services might suggest that circles with a perfect overlap might not create a perfect couple. After all, some differences or nonoverlapping spaces might make for a refreshing extension of our own circles. Maybe, as part of these relationships, we look for ways to expand the circles that define what we know and have experienced.
Even relationships that have ended can help shape ways to find common ground with someone else.
Then there’s politics. We will need to pick a president in November. Do any of the candidates overlap with your circle? Maybe, instead of looking at the breadth of their campaigns, you can consider the depth or importance of any one issue, extending that middle ground into a three-dimensional space. Maybe your vote will reflect whatever common ground you can find on a single issue, while rolling your eyes at the differences on so many other topics.
Ultimately, it seems that the most effective politician might not be someone who wants to fight for us, as Hillary Clinton suggests in her campaign mantra. And it might not be someone who wants to make America great again, as Donald Trump urges. Instead, it might be someone who can find the greatest common ground with other politicians and with other Americans.
We know that the best policies for Iowa likely won’t be the best for New York, but there must be ways to get New Yorkers and Iowans to find a national leader who can represent all of us — and not just those who are part of our inner circle.