The Eighteenth Camel

December 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Recently I saw a video on Ted.com by William Ury – A walk from ‘No’ to ‘Yes’. Below is the little excerpt.

There is the story of a man who willed to his three sons his 17 camels. To the first son 1/2 of the camels, to the second son 1/3, and to the third son 1/9. 17 doesn’t divide by any of those numbers. Conflict arose, and they decided to go to a wise old woman for assistance. After thinking about it for a while, she said, “I don’t know if I can help you. But at least if you want, you can have my camel.” Now with 18 camels, the first son took 1/2: (9), the second son took 1/3: (6), and the last son took 1/9: (2), and they had a camel left over and they gave it back to the woman.

Somehow, we need to find our “eighteenth camel.”

We are all one family; all 15,000 tribes of us. The question is how do we deal with our differences given our propensity for conflict and given our human genius at devising weapons of enormous destruction?

I think I’ve found the secret to peace. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. It’s not even new.

The secret to peace is us; it’s us who act as a surrounding community around any conflict who can play a constructive role.

I call this system the “third side,” the friends, communities, allies, neighbors who surround the “two sides” who are having a conflict.

The fundamental way the third side helps is to remind the two parties what is at sake. When you’re in a conflict, it’s easy to lose perspective, especially since we are reactionary machines.

When you’re angry, you’ll make the best speech you will ever regret.

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