It seems we create endless division between ourselves. From national boundaries, which are of course artificial, to religious differences, to national and ethnic differences, right on down to the divisions we create within families when we have disagreements, it seems we love to exaggerate differences and minimize similarities. In doing so we ramp up what was at one time a helpful evolutionary instinct – a healthy suspicion of the other, the different, and the unknown – into a maladaptive practice. Even the good and helpful desire to reclaim our cultural and ethnic heritage can be perverted into a reason to set ourselves up as different from other members of the human race in a fundamental way. This, in turn, creates more suspicion, more division, and less peace. There are healthy ways to be proud of our individual differences without in our own minds making the other less than.
I am convinced we will never be able to have peace on any level – in our families, our cities, our nation, or our world – until we really live into not only our individual differences but also, and I believe more importantly, our inherent interconnectedness as the family of humankind. Our different ethnicities don’t make us more or less human any more than the color of our hair or eyes do. We need to move beyond tribalism, not return to it with renewed fervor.
Since my field is religion and spirituality, these are the areas in which I try to tear down walls. In my own Compassionate Heart Interspiritual Community here in Milwaukee, we teach and foster respect for all traditions without asking anyone to drop their own identity as a Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Pagan, New Age, or None. We teach the fundamental values affirmed by all traditions, though they may use different names for these values of love, compassion, kindness, social justice, helping one another, and making a better world by doing so. There is no need for complicated ideologies until we master these values, and in fact I believe that complicated ideologies get in the way of these values rather than help us achieve them. It’s my way to help move the world toward increased understanding where I have some impact. How might you do the same in your area of expertise?