Variety is the Spice of Life
If variety is the spice of life, then diversity in all its forms is the spice rack we draw from. In this fourth talk in her six part series, Sacred Earth, Sacred Work, Rev. Joanne begins by telling us that in week one we were reminded that we are all created in original blessing, and that when God was finished with creation He said it was good and very good. In week two, we learned that when we remember that we are all born in original blessing it allows us to hold compassion in our hearts for one another. And last week, we discovered The Four Paths outlined by Matthew Fox – via positiva, via negativa, via creativa, and via transformativa.
On this Independence Day, Rev. Joanne points out that the motto of our country is e plurubus unum – out of many, one. This motto has graced the Great Seal of the United States since 1782. She asks the congregation in what ways they have experienced diversity lately. One person responded that they noted the differences between U.S. culture and U.K. culture in a popular TV series. Another person replied that they experience diversity in our Unity Spiritual Center congregation every Sunday – different ages, backgrounds, ideas, etc. And a third person mentioned that they see diversity daily in the different ethnic and racial backgrounds of their neighbors.
A biblical story that is often interpreted as diversity being made by and angry God is The Tower of Babel:
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel - because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. Genesis 11:1-9
Rev. Joanne tells us that she originally looked at this familiar story not as one of unity (lower case u) as it is traditionally seen, but as conformity. This usage of the word unity as conformity creates a thought process of either/or instead of a broader both/and approach. We often view the world in an either/or way. While it is true that often we are presented with what appear to be either/or choices, upon closer examination we can see that just as the binary code of 1’s and 0’s used in computer programming can create an infinite set of possibilities, so too can we expand our possibilities when we move from the dualism thinking of either/or to a more binary outlook of both/and.
There are many common things, Rev. Joanne points out, that are arbitrarily defined that we sometimes take for granted as absolute. One example is that the north pole of our planet is “up” and the south pole is “down.” Just ask anyone who lives below the equator if they are actually right side up or up side down (even using the word “below” is arbitrary, but we cannot avoid using such words as a matter of orienting ourselves in time and space). The point is, that we need not view such things as north-south and east-west in a dualistic either/or manner. It is more instructive to consider these differences in a binary both/and way and all of the possibilities that entails.
Rev. Joanne tells us that Unity (upper case u) celebrates the “both/and” – the individual expression of God in which we live, move, breathe and have our being AND the God that is within all things and all people. When we realize this, we can celebrate diversity (of creation) that is represented in every person, every place, and every thing. This allows us to show up in life as the Christ Light within us, and at the same time encourage others to also show up as the Christ Light that is also within them, even though the ways they manifest will be different for each person. It is this diversity that we can celebrate.
Where do you live into an either/or way of thinking rather that both/and, Rev. Joanne asks. Once we pay attention to this idea, she says, we will discover that we see it everywhere. Once we become mindful of this dualism, we will be able to consider ways to move from either/or thinking to the infinite possibilities of a binary both/and perspective.
There is much discussion in our culture at the moment about the seemingly mutually exclusive ideas of individual rights and responsibilities being paramount, and a perspective where the collective good of the community is of greatest importance. Rev. Joanne tells us that these are not at odds with one another. When we work on our individual healing and transformation, we then can move out into the community to support that collective healing and transformation, and that community healing cannot take place unless each of us first works on ourselves.
On an individual level, Rev. Joanne tells us, we can unfairly judge ourselves in an either/or way of thinking. Either I show up as the Christ Light at all times or if I do not, then I am a sorry human being. When we fail to show up as the Christ Light, does that make us less worthy or less sacred or less part of the Divine, she asks. Of course not. Unity teaches that no matter where we are at any given moment the Truth of who we are does not change – as divinely created beings, we are divine.
Rev. Joanne shares with us a wonderful comparison of unity and diversity from Unity Minister and author Eric Butterworth (1916-2003):
There is a great unity of life, but also a great diversity. Everyone, in his own manner, is a creative expression of the same Mind, the same Creator, but unity does not mean sameness. You are not like everyone else, and others are not just like you. It is important, from the very beginning of any relationship, to agree to let the other person be.1,3
How boring would life be if everyone and everything was the same all of the time, Rev. Joanne asks. It is an obvious answer. No one wants the same ol’ same ol’ day after day, yet it is good to be reminded that God intended diversity in life to be a strengthening factor, not weakening. This is true for genetic diversity (the reason we do not marry close relatives) as well as cultural, social, and individual diversity. From Lessons in Truth:
No two of us unfold or grow in the same way, and it is the diversity of the expressions of God in men that gives zest to life. Each man's goal should be to cultivate his own gifts that they may be brought forth under grace and in divine order, knowing that this is God's plan, or will, for him.2,3
So let us celebrate diversity in all its forms that God has created. No one wants to be bored, do they?
Now Go and Be the Light.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning - the sixth day. Genesis 1:31
Creation Spirituality rejoices in and courageously honors the rich diversity within the Cosmos which is expressed in every individual and embodies multiple cultures, religions, and ancestral traditions. Creation is rife with theme and variation and yet fear has driven us to try to tame, label and homogenize it. What do we lose when we privilege dominant voices and limit perspectives? Diversity is another name for God and should be celebrated! This week, look for ways to celebrate diversity...in ideas, creativity, religion, traditions, culture, etc.
1Butterworth, Eric Essays on Abundant Living #65. https://www.truthunity.net/pubs/eric-butterworth/eric-butterworth-speaks/1975-09-02
2Cady, Emily, Lessons in Truth Lesson 11, Annotation 10. https://www.truthunity.net/anno/lessons-in-truth-lesson-11-annotation-10
3For many years, it was common for words such as man and mankind to be used to describe the collective of all people, not just males. More modern usage would substitute neutral terms such as person, people, or humanity with corresponding pronouns.