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Together and Different

This is a menu of the topics on this page (click on any): Archbishop Desmond Tutu    Jean Vanier    Howard Thurman    Elizabeth Fiorenza    Thomas Merton    Dietrich Bonhoeffer    The Koran    Field Theory    Unexpected Gifts    Collective Intelligence    Group think   .

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

We say in our African idiom, ‘A person is a person through other persons.’ The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms. I need you in order to be me as you need me in order to be you. We are caught up in a delicate network of interconnectedness. I have gifts that you don’t, and you have gifts I don’t–voila! We are made different so that we may know our need of one another. The completely self-sufficient human being is subhuman. Thus diversity, difference is of the essence of who we are.

By Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in address at University of Toronto’s Convocation Hall, February 16, 2000

Jean Vanier

When I discover that I am accepted and loved as a person, with my strengths and weaknesses, when I discover that I carry within myself a secret, the secret of my uniqueness, then I can begin to open up to others and respect their secret. Each human being, however small or weak, has something to bring to humanity. As we start to really get to know others, as we begin to listen to each other’s stories, things begin to change. We begin the movement from exclusion to inclusion, from fear to trust, from closedness to openness, from judgment and prejudice to forgiveness and understanding. It is a movement of the heart.

It is not just a question of performing good deeds for those who are excluded but of being open and vulnerable to them in order to receive the life that they can offer; it is to become their friends. If we start to include the ‘disadvantaged’ in our lives and enter into heartfelt relationships with them, they will change things in us. They will call us to be people of mutual trust, to take time to listen and be with each other. They will call us out from our individualism and need for power into belonging to each other and being open to others. They will break down the prejudices and protective walls that gave rise to exclusion in the first place. They will then start to affect our human organizations, revealing new ways of being and walking together.

So, the one-way street, where those on top tell those at the bottom what to do, what to think, and how to be, becomes a two-way street, where we listen to what they, the ‘outsiders,’ the ’strangers,’ have to say and we accept what they have to give, that is, a simpler and more profound understanding of what it means to be truly human.

If we start to see people ‘at the bottom’ as friends, as people with gifts to bring to others, then the social pyramid, with the powerful, the knowledgeable, and the wealthy on top, becomes a place of belonging where each person finds their place and where we live in mutual trust.

Is this a Utopian vision? If it is lived at the grassroots level, in families, communities, and other places of belonging, this vision can gradually permeate our societies and humanize them.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that each one of us must welcome into our homes all those who are marginalized. I am suggesting that if each one of us, with our gifts and weaknesses, our capacities and our needs, opens our heart to a few people who are different and become their friends, receive life from them, our societies would change. This is the way of the heart.

By Jean Vanier. Jean Vanier is the founder of L’Arche, a network of communities in 30 countries for people with intellectual disabilities and their assistants. This writing is from his book, Becoming Human.

Howard Thurman

It is a world-shattering disclosure that the stream of life is a single stream, though it takes various forms as it spills over into time and space. This disclosure is made to anyone whose discipline sends him on high adventure within his own spirit, his own inner life. By prayer, by the deep inward gaze which opens the eyes of the soul to behold the presence of God, a man feels the steady rhythm of life itself. He seems to be behind the scene of all persons, things, and events. The deep hunger to be understood is at last seen to be one and the same with the hunger to understand.

Out of such an experience a new perspective emerges. Consciously now, the primary function or mission of life becomes that of achieving in act what one has experienced in insight. One is ever on the hunt for openings in others through which this may be achieved. Human need in all of its dimensions is the swinging door into the innermost life of another.

By Howard Thurman. Source: The Inward Journey

Elizabeth Fiorenza

Relationships are not built on the transfer of money and resources, but rather on an exchange of hopes, fears, and life stories. Christian spirituality means eating together, sharing together, drinking together, talking with each other, receiving each other, experiencing God’s presence through each other, and in doing so, proclaiming the gospel as God’s alternative vision for everyone→especially those who are poor, outcast, and battered.

By Elizabeth Fiorenza, Source: In Memory of Her

Thomas Merton

Only when we see ourselves in our true human context, as members of a race which is intended to be one organism and ‘one body,’ will we begin to understand the positive importance not only of the successes but of the failures and accidents in our lives. My successes are not my own. The way to them was prepared by others. The fruit of my labors is not my own: for I am preparing the way for the achievements of another. Nor are my failures my own. They may spring from failure of another, but they are also compensated for by another’s achievement. Therefore the meaning of my life is not to be looked for merely in the sum total of my own achievements. It is seen only in the complete integration of my achievements and failures with the achievements and failures of my own generation, and society, and time.

By Thomas Merton. Source: No Man Is an Island

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Only as we are within the fellowship can we be alone, and only he that is alone can live in the fellowship. Only in the fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in the fellowship.

Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.

By Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Source: Life Together

The Koran

There are verses in the Koran that say, ‘We have intentionally made you into races and nations and people so that you get to know one each other.’ God says, ‘If I wanted to I could make you all one people. But my intention was to make you different and to keep you different.’ So there is never any effort to homogenize the world. The only thing that keeps us all on one platform, all of us here and everywhere, is the platform of humanity. We are all children of God, we all come from Him and we will all return to Him.

By Dr. Saleha Mahmood Abedin. Amritavarsham50.

Field Theory

Unexpected Gifts

As life becomes harder, it also becomes richer, because the fewer expectations we have, the more the good things of life become unexpected gifts which we accept with gratitude.

By Etty Hillesum, Source: An Interrupted Life

Collective Intelligence

Links gathered by Bill Bode.

Group think

Never forget the converse....

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