Courageous Collaborations: Difficult dialogue moves us forward

Sponsored by the Charles Koch Foundation.


Are you courageous enough to collaborate with your enemies? 

  • Bishop Omar Jahwar has worked beside all kinds of unlikely allies, from Aryan Brotherhood gang leaders to former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
  • What is an enemy? A true enemy is rare, says Bishop Omar. "Enemies come when there is true violation, not true rhetoric... sometimes you have to go beyond the rhetoric so you can see the real."
  • You cannot solve deep problems from the comfort of an echo chamber—it takes courage. The key to courageous collaborations is meeting your so-called enemy to ask: "What do we fiercely agree upon? And let's work like hell to make it happen."

The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.

Why free speech is sacred—even when it's dangerous

  • Suppression of free speech dooms democracy, says law professor Nadine Strossen. We should all be open to hearing dangerous and odious ideas rather than drive them underground.
  • "[P]eople will often say to me, as somebody who is Jewish and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor who barely survived the Buchenwald Concentration Camp: How can I of all people defend the Nazis?" says Strossen. She also says, "And mark my words I would be equally distraught at having voices on the right silenced for a whole lot of reasons, one of which is the indivisibility of all rights."

The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.

Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together. 

  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.

The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations

I worked in the prison system for 5 years. Here's what it does to a person.

  • Most people who go to prison are not incorrigible criminals - just normal people who made mistakes.
  • The prison system can become breeding ground for antisocial behaviors.
  • Bishop Jahwar worked with prisoners to help them retain the core of who they were and "take masks off".

The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.

How the marketplace of ideas went rogue

  • The marketplace of ideas is a better metaphor than it's intended to be, notes Eli Pariser. As any good economist will tell you, the best product doesn't always rise to the top.
  • The institutional gatekeepers and experts who once kept checks and balances on the marketplace of ideas have been replaced by social media algorithms that reward emotion and outrage over expertise and truth.
  • How can media institutions like Facebook make this right? By reevaluating the business model that serves advertisers instead of readers, and by clearly stating their values—even if that means losing some of those 2 billion users.

The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.

Why you should tolerate intolerable ideas

How free speech deepens the quality of good ideas.

Why the U.S. is an anomaly among democracies

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  • A design team came up with a smart planter that can indicate 15 emotions.
  • The emotions are derived from the sensors placed in the planter.
  • The device is not in production yet but you can order it through a crowdfunding campaign.


If most plants you buy for your house tend to wither and die no matter how hard (or little) you try to take care of them, a technological solution may be in order. Mu-design, a design team from Luxembourg, came up with a smart planter that features 15 different emotions and can tell you definitively if it's not getting enough light or water.

The "lua" device uses sensors to trigger various emotional responses that are displayed on the 2.4 inch LCD monitor at the front of the planter. The facial expressions are based on measurements of the moisture in the soil, the amount of light and the temperature.

Credit: mu-design

Lua essentially turns your plants into pets similar to Tamagotchi, blending the physical with the virtual. If the plant needs water, it will show a panting face. If it's too hot, a sweating face will appear. If you want to see its chattering teeth, make the plant cold. If there's way too much light for the plant's liking, you'll see its vampire face – an effect that may be creepily augmented by lua's another built-in sensor that allows it to track motion with its eyes. And if that wasn't enough, the plant can even communicate with you through an app.

Credit: mu-design

Credit: mu-design

The planter comes in several colors designated as "eggplant," "sunflower" and "agave" by the designers.

The device is currently available through an Indiegogo campaign. It already far surpassed its goal, raising 238% more than it intended, with nearly 600 backers.

Check out this video of Lua for more:

  • Often times, interactions that we think are "zero-sum" can actually be beneficial for both parties.
  • Ask, What outcome will be good for both parties? How can we achieve that goal?
  • Afraid the win-win situation might not continue? Build trust by creating a situation that increases the probability you and your counterpart will meet again.
  • When it comes to moving forward, the slightly harder path — but in the long run, the way easier path — would be for us to develop the skill of grieving.
  • Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's theories about the five stages may be off, but she gave us a lens from which to come to understand the process of grieving.
  • The fact that you grieve is a testimony to your love.
  • Europe divided into two blocs? That's not unheard of in history
  • However, this map of Red vs. Blue countries is indecipherable without its legend
  • That key is both trivial and unexpected. Can you guess what it is?

Red vs. Blue

Image: Vivid Maps

What do Iceland and Greece share that distinguishes them from what France and Poland have in common?

What does this map show? Don't skip ahead. See if you can guess what it's about. We'd be pretty amazed if you could.

It shows Europe divided into two blocs. That's not unheard of in history. It's just that these two are bafflingly unfamiliar. It's not the EU versus the rest, nor NATO versus the Warsaw Pact. Not Triple Alliance vs. Triple Entente. Neither Napoleonic France and its satellites versus Britain and its allies. Rome vs. barbarians? Nope.

Let's have a look at who's actually in these two blocs.

  • In red: a contiguous slice of Europe, from up in Norway all the way down to Greece, anchored on Germany – the only one of Europe's Big Five (1) in the club. However, the red zone also includes outliers such as Iceland and Ireland.
  • In blue: everybody else, in two zones separated by the red one. In the south and west, we find the other four members of the Big Five, and some smaller countries. In the east and north, there's Russia, Turkey and places in between and nearby, including Poland and Ukraine.

These colours denote a difference that is intriguing because you probably never even realised it existed. After this, you won't be able to ever un-see it.

Distance sequencing

Image: Vivid Maps

You may have never noticed, but you can't un-know it now: red means 'furthest first', blue means 'longest last'.

  • In Red Europe, road signs show city distances from furthest on top to nearest at the bottom. As the example provided shows, if you're driving north on the E4 in southern Sweden, distant Stockholm (557 km away) is listed first, nearby Åstorp, just 13 km down the road, last.
  • In Blue Europe, it's the other way around: nearest cities on top, furthest ones at the bottom of the sign. On the E40 in Poland, nearby Kraków (58 km) comes before Jędrzychowice, far away on the German border, 465 km to the west.
It's quite likely you never gave a moment's thought to the sequencing of distances on road signs. But plenty of traffic experts must have – and as this map shows, they're divided in two diametrically opposed blocs. In the red one, 'Furthest is First'; in the blue one, 'Longest is Last'.Which option is better? That's an esoteric riddle on a par with the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. To any but the most rabid exegetes of road signage, the answer is unimportant and trivial. And that's precisely why this map is so fascinating. It scratches the surface of the world to reveal a layer of reality slightly outside the realm of the expected – at least to the vast majority of us. The result is a map that is arrestingly unfamiliar. A few other examples come to mind.

Latin vs. Greek

Image: Strange Maps

Some involve mysterious lines on the map that divide the world into two wholly unexpected halves. Take for instance the Jireček Line, which divides the Balkan peninsula into areas of Roman and Greek influence, based on archeological finds (see #128).

Football vs. rugby

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Or the Barassi Line, which cuts across the east of Australia from the Northern Territories to New South Wales, demarcating the part of the country, west and south of the line, where Australian-rules football is more popular, from the part to the line's east and north, where rugby (league or union) sets more hearts racing.

The Hajnal Line

Image: Demography Resources

And then there's the Hajnal Line, roughly from St Petersburg to Trieste, that divides Europe into two distinct zones of 'nuptuality': west of the line, marriage rates and fertility are comparatively low, even before the 20th century; to the east, both are (or were) comparatively high. Prior to relatively modern times, the late marriage pattern in Western Europe was fairly unique in the world.

The Siktir League

Image: Reddit.com/r/MapPorn

Here's a map that fortuitously flashed up the screen a few days ago, showing a weird coalition of countries, from the western Balkans all the way to the borders of China.

Alexander the Great's empire? Not quite. It's a map of countries where the swear word 'siktir' ('get lost' or 'f*ck off') appears in the native language. Considering that these languages include members of the Romance, Slavic, Turkic families, that's quite a feat (2).


Do you have any other examples of lines, colours and coalitions on maps that show the world in a different light? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

Strange Maps #981

(1) The EU may consist of 28 (soon 27) members, but just five countries constitute around 80% of the bloc's population and GDP: Germany, France, the UK, Spain and Italy.

(2) Croatia may be one country too many included on this map: speakers of that language report never using or hearing the word.

  • Former pastor, Joshua Harris, recently announced that he's divorcing his wife of twenty years.
  • Harris's 1997 book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, sold over a million copies and is credited for influencing the Christian purity movement.
  • His work has harmed a lot of people, causing Harris to rethink his ideas two decades after its publication.

Let's start with a basic fact: relationships are hard.

That fact does not stop a slew of authors from trying to claim the perfect guidelines for relationship and marital success in their books. There is no dearth of relationship advice on bookshelves or during phone calls with friends. Following it is another story, especially for givers of said advice. Add abstinence to the equation, an assault to our biological design, and the results are always thorny.

Joshua Harris is a former evangelical pastor—he left the church he founded, Covenant Life Church, in 2015 to return to collegiate life in British Columbia. He is also the author of a bestselling book credited for defining the evangelical purity movement, I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

After its publication in 1997, Harris's book went on to sell over a million copies. He has since disavowed some of the advice given in those pages, yet his influence cannot be understated, which is why fans and foes alike are debating the announcement on Instagram that he's separating from his wife of twenty years.

The amicable breakup is not necessarily newsworthy, but it has left critics of his work dismayed. While his book criticized "secular dating," stating that relationships should be courtship and promoting the idea of staying "pure" until marriage, Harris has since grappled with the pain his work caused.

The purity movement originated in the nineties. It advocates abstinence; Harris wrote that even kissing before marriage was taboo, part of the means by which secular dating is really training for divorce. The most infamous aspect of the abstinence movement is the purity ring, a ring teenagers wear to show that they're remaining chaste until marriage. In some denominations, ceremonies are conducted in which young daughters are "married" to their fathers until a suitable suitor arrives.

I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye - Extended Trailer

The author Lyz Lenz is one of Harris's critics. In a 2016 Washington Post article, she wrote that purity culture creates fear and unwarranted criticism; love becomes what "breaks you instead of builds you." In an era defined by women's rights, it harkens back to the long, dark era of male ownership. She writes,

"Purity culture taught me that I ought to be passed down from father to husband, more an inheritance than a human. I was taught that men are my cover and my shield, when for the most part they have been the ones causing damage through molestation, rape and abuse. I was taught that my holy calling was to open my legs for one and only one and bear him children. Barring that, I was to keep them closed and never express desire or lust or fear or longing."

We can credit Harris for reckoning with his legacy in his rethinking of the book—his publisher discontinued printing it at the author's request—yet notice that he never actually addresses the damage caused to women by the purity mindset. His admission is shallow even as Lenz and others express the damage being taught to be chattel imprints on their consciousness.

Harris went so far as to make a documentary based on his book, though even that apology comes across as careless. Author Elizabeth Esther criticizes the producers for cutting her interview in the documentary in such a way that didn't fully express her concerns with Harris's work. For example, she writes that they completely removed Harris's dismissal of the LGBT movement during their talk. She also finds his apology unconvincing, writing,

"He's sorry he hurt people. But not enough to do the actual hard work of making amends. Instead, he made a movie centering...himself."

As Slate staff writer Ruth Graham notes in an interview with NPR, Harris's espousal of the "perfect marriage" can be seen for what it is: a guess, and, sadly, a failed one at that. Humans simply are not built to not have sex. As she notes, there is no magic formula for marriage. It's as specialized and intimate as the individuals involved.

Photo: Ruaridh Connellan / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The Purity Ball sees teenagers pledge to their fathers that they will keep their virginity until their wedding night. A 17-year-old has committed herself to America's Purity Movement, where daughters pledge abstinence to their fathers.

What isn't helpful, Graham continues, is this eternal struggle the religious have with sexuality. She continues,

"This is just another cause to realize that making premarital sex and abstinence such a major theme of youth culture and youth group culture, specifically, just does not necessarily lead to healthy marriages. It just takes a much more robust and complex sexual ethic and way of talking about sex."

In his Instagram post, Harris thanks everyone for "respecting their privacy during a difficult time." We can only think of the privacy of women influenced by purity culture, taught that their "place" is as an accessory to the demands of male biology and temperament. We can hope that Harris has grappled with this fact; perhaps he'll emerge from his divorce with a more equitable message.

Everyone changes; those that own their changes deserve understanding and, at times, forgiveness. Yet there is another quality, one that has long been important to the Christian soul—humility—that Harris now has to own. It took him nearly twenty years to even listen to critics of his bestselling book. Hopefully, he'll be ready to listen, really listen, sooner this time around.

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