Embracing diversity

I am listening to the audio version of Tove Jansson: Arbeide og Elske (Tove Jansson: Work and love), about the Finnish artist and author, including of the Moomin stories. 

One thing that strikes me is that she and others in her political and artistic circle seem to not only have strong views on art, society, and politics (which is healthy) but think that these views are exclusively right and other views are inherently wrong. 

I have always been puzzled by this. For me, there is beauty and necessity in the diversity of views, orientations, and preferences. That’s how the richness of our society and culture is created, it’s how we go outside of our own limited conditioning and learn to view things from other perspectives.

Collectively, it’s how we – as a society and species – can become more resilient and adaptable. Some of us may have insights and solutions that are just what we need in responding to new situations. And we cannot easily predict what this will be in advance.

For me, there is something of value in just about any view and orientation. Each reflects the experiences and background of some of us humans. They all fit into a bigger whole. I can learn something about humanity, the world, and myself from each of these views. And all of it reflects and mirrors something in me, and I can use it as a pointer to find it and get to know it in myself.

When it comes to art, there is obviously art I don’t quite resonate with or understand. And I am very happy if it resonates with someone else. Also, who knows, perhaps it will resonate with me in the future? It likely will if I take the time to explore it.

Why do some of us have a more inclusive orientation, while others take a more exclusive view? 

I can find both orientations in myself, as I assume we all can. In some areas, I am effortlessly more inclusive and value diversity (for instance, food), and in other areas, I may go into unexamined and fearful patterns and take a more judgmental and exclusive view.

If we take a mirror approach and use the diversity in the world to find our own inner diversity, then we tend to find a deeper appreciation of the diversity of the world. We know how to make use of it to get to know ourselves better and consciously embrace more of our own wholeness and diversity. The richness of the world becomes a way for me to find my own richness.

If we take an evolutionary perspective, we see that this diversity – in orientations, views, and preferences – is vital for our survival. Each view has something of value and together creates a richer collective repertoire for us to draw from. Faced with new collective challenges, some subgroups may have just what we need to adapt, survive, and thrive.

If we use our own views, orientations, and preferences to create an exclusive identity for ourselves, we’ll tend to feel we have to defend it, including through putting down and diminishing other views, orientations, and preferences. It becomes a small orientation. This too has its place. At the very least, it serves as a mirror for ourselves so we can find where and when we do the same. (Which we inevitably do or, at least, did.)

Tove Jansson and her friends lived in the last century. Perhaps this more inclusive view is more widespread and common today, at least among the more liberal segments of society. Perhaps

Note: I wrote this on my phone in the wilderness so it’s more flow-of-consciousness and less edited than it normally would be.

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The richness of this moment

When someone asks me how I am doing, it’s not always easy to give a simple answer.

The reality is that any moment is very rich.

What’s here now. Right now, I notice…. quiet joy, enjoyment, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, sadness, fear, dread, love, discomfort, contractions, a sense of boundlessness, and much more. It’s a bitter-sweet experience, where both ends of many polarities are included.

And when I think about any situation, it’s similar. For instance, when I think of my ex-wife, there is love there, a wish for her to do well, some regret, a twinge when I think of her with someone else, a knowing I wouldn’t want to share my life with her now, sweet memories, slightly uncomfortable memories, and much more.

Richness of views. There is also a richness of views that all co-exist. When I look at my situation now, and my history, there is a wide range of views that all have some validity. I can find tragedy in missed opportunities. I can find privilege. I can find adventure. I can find mistakes and poor judgment. I can see it through a “spiritual” story of opening, initial awakening, dark nights, and situations perfectly set up to further the deepening. I can see it as a moving story of the hopes, failures, achievements, and losses of a typical human being. And again much more.

There is always one more facet of my experience here and now I can notice. There is always one more view that makes sense and has some validity.

Happening within what I am, and reflecting who I am. Taking a slightly different angle, I see that my field of experience – as it is now – is what I am. It’s all happening within and as what I am. It’s the richness of what I am now. And from yet another angle, I see that any quality or characteristics I see “out there” in others or the wider world, is something I can find in myself. I wouldn’t recognize it “out there” unless I already knew it from my own experience and who I am. In that sense, there is an immense – and very real – richness to who I am, if I only look and see.

Awareness, love, ground. It’s equally true that I can find where everything is awareness, love, form, and ground.

The awareness, love, intelligence is here, and it seems I can find it whenever I look. Whatever happens, this field of experience, is awareness, love, intelligence. Or, at least, those are the words that seem to fit the best.

The content of experience is here, as described above, including quiet joy, sadness, satisfaction, slight discomfort and more. And I can find a similar content of experience whenever I look. This happens within and as awareness.

At the same time, there seems to be a “ground” (void) here that awareness and its content happens within and as. And that too seems to be here whenever I look. This is perhaps what it’s most difficult to find an appropriate word for. It’s a  nothingness that allows for awareness and the content of awareness. And it seems surprisingly tangible?

When I say that “everything” happens within this, that “everything” includes any sense of a me or I. That too happens within what a thought may call awareness, love, form, ground. It happens within what “I” really am. In a sense, there is one “I” that all this happens within and as, and another “I” or “me” that happens within this (the human self, sometimes an apparent doer, observer etc.). And really, all of these – awareness, love, intelligence, form, ground – seem all facets of the same.

Justification and fullness of stories

It is very understandable when we try to justify our actions. We are just trying to protect a particular self image, often as “good”, and to find acceptance from ourselves and others and fit in.

There is fortunately a very simple alternative, and that is to find a fullness of stories around what we initially may wish to justify. And to deliberately include both “good” and “bad” stories in a conventional sense.

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Religions and their commonalities and differences

We’re Not the Same…And That’s OK. Stephen Prothero says the leaders of the interfaith movement have a problem: call it the Kumbaya Effect. Instead of grappling with our religious differences, he says they gloss them over, creating a ‘pretend pluralism’ that does more harm then good. Stephen Prothero, author of God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World — and Why Their Differences Matter.

The current episode of Interfaith Voices is on why our differences matter. It is an interesting topic, so before I listen to it (if I do!), I thought I would explore it for myself first. I am usually not so interested in religion, so it is good for me to take a look at it.

When it comes to emphasizing commonalities and differences, it seems appropriate and helpful if we emphasize commonalities these days. With increasing connection among people of different religions, emphasizing commonalities helps diffuse tension and ease interactions. Within that context of emphasizing commonalities, there is also a great deal of benefit in acknowledging and looking at the differences among religions.

Ecosystems are more resilient and stable the more diverse they are. And although social systems are not identical to ecosystems, it does seem healthy for humanity to have a wide diversity of approaches to religion, spirituality, and God. Each provide their own unique perspectives, contexts, and insights. There is a richer set of approaches and tools for us to try out. They provide contrasts to each other. There is an incentive for each tradition to clarify and refine their own approach. And there is an opportunity to find apparent universals and commonalities within the diversity. And as in an ecosystem, we don’t know which “species” will show itself fit and thrive in the future.

We can even acknowledge the benefits of the varieties that are apparently not so healthy, such as the ones with weird ideas, views not aligned with science, and fundamentalism in general. They provide a mirror for us, a contrast, an incentive to find alternatives that are more kind, wise, and aligned with reality, and they provide an opportunity for exploring and implementing strategies in relating to them such as working to minimize damage, invite changes, and developing more attractive alternatives.

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The benefits of belief

What are some of the benefits of belief? Of taking a story as true? Of identifying with its viewpoint and the identity that comes from it?

One obvious benefit is that it helps channel attention and action, often with an element of compulsiveness.

We also get to explore what is inside of the story, the world and options available within that story.

We get to notice what happens when we take a story as true, the dynamics of taking a story as true.

We get to filter the world in a particular way, adding to the richness of experience.

We get to filter the world through a sense of an I with an other, and also the viewpoint of the story and its corresponding identity.

Of course, most of this can happen when we use a story as guide for attention and action, even if it is not taken as true. We can still use it to channel attention and action, we still get to explore the world through its viewpoint and identities. We still get to add to the richness of experience through it.

The difference is the drama and reality that comes when the story is taken as true. The story and what it creates – including a sense of a separate I – seems real and substantial, and we act as if it is. And that is the unique benefit of believing a story.

What otherwise may appear as a game (lila) is now taken as a real death-and-life drama. That is the real and juicy gift of beliefs.

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Facets, paths and tools

Whenever I take a story as true, I make life much smaller than it is.

I identify as something within content of experience, so lose sight of what I am. (That which experience happens within and as.) I identify as something much smaller than what I am as a human being, so have to resist parts of who I am and live from a smaller pallete. I have an idea that I know how others – and life – should behave. And in all of this, I try to limit God.

So when it comes to growing and waking up, there is no need to assume that my limited experiences says anything about how it will be for me in the future, or how it should be for others.

I may have experiences with facets of what I am – such as emptiness and fullness and how it is lived through this human self. I may be familiar with awareness as a field with no center and no periphery, and how this human self functions in that content. I may have experiences with infinite love and how it is to live within and from it. I may be somewhat familiar with who I am at the soul level, with the alive presence, brilliance, luminous darkness, and so on. I may have practical insights into these things and much more.

Yet all of this comes from a very limited experience and just one path. There is no reason to assume that life is limited to this, and every reason to welcome a far richer terrain – and find a deep apprecation and gratitude for the diversity in how all of this is expressed through many different humans and their always unique paths.