Alternative: (adj.) available as another possibility: e.g. the various alternative methods for resolving disputes
Webster’s dictionary definition is very generous.
In a world where the status quo is extolled as not only being common, but nearly godly in its significance, a concept like “alternative” is almost always associated with being out of the flow.
- Alternative rock: another name for “your rock band has no chance of being played on Top 40 Radio.”
- Alternative lifestyle: a warning shouted by Middle America to discourage you from moving into their neighborhood.
- Alternative political party: a guarantee that you will only receive votes from family members.
- Alternative worship experience: the real one is happening at eleven o’clock, but we’re going to let the kids play around at nine.
Here’s what I know about alternative: if I’m in a room discussing an issue with friends, family, acquaintances and by-standers, and somebody offers an idea that may be contrary to the norm but addresses a need that no one has yet considered, it is no longer an alternative view, but rather, a necessary inclusion.
Bluntly, just because people don’t agree with me does not mean they don’t possess smart ideas that are required to form the solution.
It doesn’t matter what issue we are trying to finagle–from gun control to abortion to immigration to war to homosexuality–well, the list goes on and on. What is required to make the requirement is to listen to others tell you what they require.
What we are calling alternative opinions are often pieces of the puzzle which must be kept in readiness, so when we get to the end and find out we’re incomplete, they can be placed in their needful position to form the picture.
It reminds me of the story of the feeding of the five thousand from the Good Book. After the initial miracle of providing grub for a large crowd with limited funds for the menu, Jesus tells the disciples to “gather up the leftovers, that nothing be lost.” I am sure they thought it was stupid. Everybody was stuffed; they had gorged themselves on food. What was the purpose of carrying around twelve baskets of extras?
Simple. He was telling these fellows that somewhere along the line they were going to need them.
If we throw away every idea that is not part of our own philosophy, when our reasoning breaks down, we will not have the available knowledge to know how to address the issue.
In 1961 in Birmingham, Alabama, there were many white persons who were fully aware that segregation was not only filled with error, but useless. Yet because alternative views were not allowed on the subject matter, we were forced to produce a bloody conclusion instead of an intelligent one.
I know what I think. But I also know I need to think.
In order for that to work, I must realize that the alternative values of today may very well become the mainstream thinking of tomorrow.