Community Moves Us Toward Unity
We move forward by turning to each other, not on each other.
Posted October 3, 2020
Two things characterize every community. Community is a process meant to lead to unity. It takes time and much effort to arrive at unity, but that is the unspoken goal of every community.
Second, every community is diverse. Whenever there is more than one, there is difference. Community is an effort to bridge separation and distinction, to acknowledge and embrace diversity.
Diversity is the nature of life. Every form of life is made up of different cells and organs. They are all united in purpose to serve the highest interests of the organism as a whole. The goal of life is realizing the highest possible degree of unity in diversity. This is the only perspective that will lead to a true understanding of wholeness.
Recent research in genetics, molecular anthropology, genealogy, as well as our new understanding of DNA, all verify the interrelatedness of all human beings, despite dramatic and widespread differences across the human family. This is both reaffirming and a great challenge.
Unity in diversity is not a slogan, nor a buzz word, and especially not sameness. It is a way of explaining and understanding the principle of the oneness of humanity. It honors all the unique and compelling differences that do exist within the human family, from every ethnic group to each individual temperament. Diversity in every community may just be the most practical need of our time.
In the Bay Area, Shilpa Jain, the executive director of YES!, a nonprofit working with young and multigenerational changemakers, is not only working toward this need but also doing it in a way that provides a model for communities everywhere to consciously bring out the unity in the community.
Their flagship programs, called Jams, bring together about 30 people at a time to connect, inspire each other, and collaborate for personal, interpersonal, and systemic transformation toward healing, love, and justice in the world. In the spirit of a musical jam, people are invited to offer their struggles, hopes, fears, and resources while listening to one another deeply to co-create new, unique synergies. Vulnerability, integrity, and honesty allow each to learn and unlearn exactly what they need to about themselves, each other, and the world they want to see.
In her chapter on Jams in Our Moment of Choice: Evolutionary Visions and Hope for the Future, Shilpa Jain explains, “All we need in these times is to bring diverse people together to tune in to their deeper wisdom, to listen to each other, to align and collaborate. Through this attunement, they will co-liberate themselves and access the solutions that already reside within.”
Yet this is both simple and complex at the same time. Many who are or desire to be changemakers have their own inner and outer challenges to deal with before their inner wisdom can speak over their inner critic. In addition, on the systemic level, organizations and institutions of education, politics, economics, and society often generate more conflict, distance, frustration than they resolve.
In her work to ameliorate this illusion of separation, Shilpa Jain adds, “I often feel like I am walking the line between emergence and emergency. It takes energy, dedication, and fortitude for me to stay present, to be with what is coming, and to walk a clear path forward that reflects my values. And I can’t do it alone. When the going gets tough, I need beloved community to show me that we move forward by turning to each other instead of turning on each other.”
The real hope, from a holistic perspective, is that over our long history, this is the direction we’ve always been moving. It is the nature of evolution to depend on cooperation rather than competition. We have seen our circles of unity expand and become wider and wider over the centuries; we now recognize global unity as the next stage in our collective evolution.
Unity defines both the nature of who we are as individuals and what we are made for as humanity. Unity is the force driving the progress of civilization. Unity is harmony with differences. The goal on every level of human interaction and relationship is unity in diversity or unity with the differences that will always exist everywhere. The principle of unity in diversity seeks to remold society’s underlying values and its institutions to keep up with the needs of an ever-changing world.
The practices and principles of Jams that value inclusion and wholeness, develop vital skill sets, and counter the prevailing cultural divisions, moving us toward unity, include:
- Practice listening without taking on, judging, interpreting, or fixing: Spacious listening creates powerful connections.
- Bring in play wherever you can: A sense of play transforms the field of what is possible.
- Make space for all the feelings that arise: This supports and leads to healing.
- When things get hot, slow down: Let misunderstandings be a guide to regenerating connection, breathe into them.
- Value the person over the plan/agenda/goals: Prioritize people’s experiences through love and truth-telling.
Atkinson, R. (2017). The Story of Our Time: From Duality to Interconnectedness to Oneness. Delray Beach, FL: Sacred Stories Publishing, 46-7, 87-8.
Jain, S., "Jamming: Cultivating Connection, Community, Collaboration, and Co-Liberation," in Atkinson, R., Johnson, K., & Moldow, D., eds. (2020). Our Moment of Choice: Evolutionary Visions and Hope for the Future. NY: Aria/Beyond Words, 25-31.