The Clashes of Civilization, by Stephanie Murphy

March 28, 2012


As an undergraduate, I slogged through controversial, complex geopolitical histories of the Middle East. I thought if I looked hard enough, I would find The Answer to better relations between the U.S. and the Middle East. No matter how many research papers, policy proposals, opinion articles and historical narratives I read, I could not satisfy my perpetual question: what is going on with this clash of civilizations??

Now I suspect my dissatisfaction resulted from where — and how — I sought knowledge, and it mirrors a larger problem of American short-sightedness about legitimate sources of understanding.

Connecting Dots

The extent of Islamophobia in the U.S. shocks me. I try to counteract the existing association of Islam to violence, an association that pervades mainstream media. I try to talk to my friends and family about my limited knowledge of Muslim culture, and I’m always looking for better access points for discussion with wary audiences.

One day in music class, I found an exciting possibility. I learned that in Islam the human voice is considered the best medium for understanding and preserving the word of God. Printing the Qur’an is helpful, but limited in its ability to convey the words’ highest meaning. Saying them out loud — with the proper pronunciation, lyricism, and spiritual sensitivity — illuminates their richer beauty, making the heart tremble with joy.

When I heard this, my mind lit up and my head went wild.

I’ve learned over time that my favorite ideas sound like really, really loud cymbals; the vibrations even seem to emanate from the center of my head. It feels like the sides of my skull have been struck together, for all the clanging and crashing going on up there. The opposing spheres of stubborn shell ring in clashing resonance.

Sound of A Wake-up Call

I’ve finally learned that the clash is a wake up call. An alert from the universe to keep an eye out for new ideas, to find a new path of understanding that’s somewhere close by.

So I invite you, too, to greet the clash from a new perspective. I invite you to listen. What do you hear?

I hear the intangible beauty of the human experience. I hear the yearning and longing of spiritual seeking. I hear the power of the human voice. Now there’s an entry point, a possibility for an unconventional connection.

The Value of Voice

U.S. policymakers have to realize Christian values are not universal, including values about communication methods. Western governments will not successfully communicate with Muslim governments as long as they cling to a version of world politics that’s written, written by and for imperial fantasies.

In every conflict, there’s a resolution waiting in the wings. One cause of the clash between the West and Islam is repeated miscommunication. Maybe we are trying the wrong methods, the wrong tools for connecting so we’re missing the current. Maybe — no, certainly — we need to stop asserting our values and listen to the other side.

What Does Your Brilliance Feel Like?

So let’s listen, let’s wake up. Be open to other sources, to other ways of knowing. Look out, sniff out, hear out, tongue out, feel out — whatever works for you. Go outside your world, yourself. Then bring your experiences back in to marvel, mingle with, and awaken more truths. What does your brilliance feel like? What sense do you use, and are you already aware of it?

And once you find out, please share: I love hearing others’ sources of inspiration.
For my part, I’ll keep you posted on the path through the clash, because I won’t stop looking for a better connection.


Stephanie Murphy showed up out of the clear blue and I had a feeling I had to work with her. Now she’s a sounding board, co-creatrix and executress of big ideas, pulling them out of the ether, chasing them with me around corners, and landing them with a daze, a triumph, and stars overhead. She writes more great stuff just like this, exercising her rich ideas on her blog. Take a look, and stretch that big brain you’re carrying around.

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Story Charmer’s Waking Up Series is the month of March in meditation on WAKING UP. What does it mean? What growth does it spur? What wonder and challenge? GUEST POSTS and personal queries will appear here throughout the month. Read all the posts in the series here…

If you’re spurred by what you read, and you want to write a post in reply, email me (hi) at (storycharmer) dot (com).

Join the conversation. Leave a comment. Write a post.

Let’s wake up together.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dave April 8, 2012 at 10:20 pm

“I hear the intangible beauty of the human experience. I hear the yearning and longing of spiritual seeking. I hear the power of the human voice. Now there’s an entry point, a possibility for an unconventional connection.”



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