Out of Many One
E Pluribus Unum. Out of Many One. These are the words written on the Seal of the United States of America. This is our traditional motto. What this says to me is that, in unity, many pieces must come together. One person or thing standing alone is not unity—it is one person standing alone! The one can be a catalyst for unity—or disunity—but it takes other moving parts to come together.
Honesty is the basis of unity. I think of marriage or friendship. As long as each person is in a defensive mode, each presenting his/her “side,” unity is not possible. When each person is wanting to “prove” how “right” they are, there continues to be be a wall between them with no door. The poet Rumi says, “Out beyond our ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. I will meet you there.” Both people (or groups) have to move beyond who is “right” and who is “wrong.” It takes “deep listening” or even “radical listening” to hear exactly where the other person is coming from. Truly hearing allows the other person to feel seen for who they really are. It does not mean agreeing with the other’s position. It is simply saying, “I see you and hear you for the person you are.” If each is willing to risk vulnerability and honesty and allow themselves to be truly known, there is the possibility of meeting in that meadow out beyond who is right and who is wrong.
Unity is not about giving up ourselves or having to become like “the other.” It is about risking showing our authentic selves and allowing a safe space for others to do the same. This allows for a path to open that honors the humanity in each of us. Sometimes, the path is to go in different directions, but if we have truly “seen” the essence of each other, there can be peace in deciding to part. However, if it is done too easily, it can be an escape rather than courage.
I recall an incident when I lived in Asheville, NC. I had political signs in my yard that differed from the political leanings of my neighbors. One day I saw their son knocking down my signs and removing them. I went thru many emotions while watching from my window—anger, fear, sadness, hopelessness. After a period of prayer and meditation, I felt there was no purpose in trying to convince my neighbors of the “rightness” of my political beliefs. I asked myself, “Where are the places that we can meet?” My answer was that we both cared deeply for our families and our faith even though we came to very different ways of honoring and living out those beliefs. So I baked some brownies and took them to my neighbors. The brownies were a way of meeting out in the field beyond who was right and who was wrong. As a result, unsolicited, their son came and put my signs back up and apologized for taking them down. There arose a quiet understanding between us that even though we were very different people with very different beliefs, we honored each other as both being children of God. It was bittersweet leaving them when I moved from Asheville.
Just as there is deep and challenging work in creating unity in relationships and between groups, the first and deepest work is creating unity within ourselves. We all have parts of ourselves that we love to show others! Because we are human, we all have parts of ourselves we don’t want to acknowledge—our envy, our judgement, our anger, our self-righteousness, our feelings of being damaged goods, our addictions, past unwise decisions, and the list goes on. Jung calls this our “shadow,” the part that lives in secrecy. Until we are willing to acknowledge these parts and bring them into the light, we will always be in battle with ourselves . We will be afraid to let others get too close in case they might discover those secret parts.
It is only when we look honestly within and name our shadow that we can begin the courageous journey of healing within. As we find unity within, we can then begin to find healing unity in our relationships and in our beloved country by taking away the power of the shadows that continue to keep us apart.
Let us meet each other in the meadow out beyond who is right and who is wrong. I will bring brownies.