Unity…diversity. Those two words seem to be complete opposites, and putting them together an oxymoron. In fact, if we were to try, most of us would probably try something like “diversity in unity.” That version might make at least some sense…
But to reverse them? to say “Unity in diversity”? How is that possible?
I’ve been thinking about that because of a class I just recently taught…and because one of the emphases in my faith tradition is just that: “Unity in diversity.”
So what does that mean to me? It’s difficult..but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
If we separate the two words, my thoughts might go something like this:
- Unity – working towards the same goal; being whole.
- Diversity – being different
And when I look at those ideas, it’s kind of challenging to see how they might go together.
But there are other aspects to their definitions, according to Merriam-Webster:
- Unity – a totality of related parts; an entity that is a complex or systematic whole
- Diversity – composed of different elements
When I look at those ideas, then the concept of “unity in diversity” becomes much more possible and makes more sense.
We–as a society/church/group–can be unified when we recognize that we are part of a complex system, made up of related parts. But all the parts make one. Diversity recognizes that multiplicity of those related parts.
And when we put that together as a concept of “unity in diversity,” I can acknowledge our differences in background, life experiences, understandings, and even beliefs…but at the same time recognize that there is something as the foundation of that diversity that makes us a whole.
Hard to understand? You bet!
Hard to live? Oh yeah!
There are times when it seems impossible to achieve agreement, but at those times, we need to commit to ongoing dialogue–to really work at listening to each other and not talk past each other. And at those times, it is important for us to acknowledge that our inability to agree on issues that affect each others’ lives is hurtful–both to humanity and to all of creation.
But it can happen…it can be lived, if we allow the Divine to work within us.