What would it be like if we were all more alike?
This isn’t just a philosophical question. In many ways, we live as though we wished others were more like us. We spend time with those who are similar to us and avoid those who seem to be different. We enjoy being around those who share our viewpoint and avoid those who challenge it. We accept the parts of others that make us comfortable and ignore or reject the rest.
But what about our diversity? Do we embrace it, or do we merely tolerate it?
Over time, I’ve grown to appreciate the importance of our differentness. I’ve gotten to the point where I think of the incredible diversity — within our universe, within our human family — as one of our greatest blessings.
I look at it this way:
If there was no diversity and everyone was just like me, the world would be a very different place. We’d have a lot of stories being written, but they’d all be coming from one point of view so they’d get stale and repetitive. And I’m not sure how any of the stories would get recorded — I have no clue how to make a pen or paper or a printing press. Computers and the internet? Forget it. My brain doesn’t work that way. They wouldn’t exist.
And that’s not all. Heating? Electricity? Plumbing? Are you kidding? I can barely re-caulk my bathtub without hurting myself. There would be no roads or cars, no airplanes or boats. No buildings, either. You wouldn’t want to step into any structure that I designed or constructed. Definitely not safe.
If everyone were like me, we’d have no music — sorry, not my gift. No art — love it but don‘t have a talent for it. No doctors to keep us healthy, no medicine to save our lives … and on and on.
Basically, if everyone was like me, we’d all be sitting in a cave somewhere huddled around a fire — assuming we could start a fire — telling each other the same story over and over.
Not very appealing, eh?
Of course, the benefits of our diversity go way beyond our creature comforts. Our thoughts are influenced and shaped by the thoughts of others, even those with whom we disagree. Different points of view challenge and shape our thinking. Relationships challenge us to grow and move outside of ourselves in so many ways, offering us the chance to experience life from another’s very different perspective. Our differences can expand us, if we let them.
Our experience of God also is grounded in diversity. Each of us experiences God in our own way, through our unique but limited perspective. We also experience and learn about God through each other. One verse says we get to know God through love, and that always involves another person who is in many ways very different from us.
There’s no getting away from it.
So much of our religious tradition honors our diversity, even if so many of our religious institutions do not. Genesis describes a creator who loves diversity and thinks that the many, many differences in our world are very, very good. In the story of Noah’s ark, the creator insists on a boat big enough to preserve all of that diversity. There are many stories of Jesus rejecting those who defined God in narrow terms and accepted only those who shared their viewpoints and perspectives. The idea of the trinity emphasizes that there is diversity within the divine.
Yes, we encounter divinity through our diversity. Although our diversity can be very challenging in some ways, it’s what makes everything possible.
Do we embrace it and value it and promote it? And if we don’t, aren’t we in a real sense choosing to live in a cave, huddled around a fire, telling each other the same story?
Some thoughts of others on the topic:
“We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity.” — Desmond Tutu
“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing and inclusion.” — Max de Pree
“It’s really important to share the idea that being different might feel like a problem at the time, but ultimately diversity is a strength.” — Carson Kressley
“Isn’t it amazing that we are all made in God’s image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people?” — Desmond Tutu