“If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.”
― Abraham Lincoln
If you and I spend long enough we will find places where our views differ. It may be in the realm of politics, religion, health, economics, or any number of areas. Choose a topic and we will eventually find our differences.
Discussions will only remain civil and fruitful as long as we have some fundamental foundation that we agree on. The more shallow the foundation, the more likely that the discussion will break down. If we agree about the superiority of our particular football team, this will hold us in good stead for football game discussions with our fellow supporters, and not much else. If we agree that we both belong to the same political party, we may go a little longer, but the conversation will find its limits when we meet with members of a different party.
We are watching what seems to be the disintegration of the fabric of our societies. In the United States and other Western European nations we are increasingly intolerant of any viewpoint other than our own. In the US once strong and respected institutions that upheld the rule of widely agreed upon law, are under fire, groaning at the seams. They seem to have just survived the last four years and the 2020 elections, but we don’t know if they will endure.
The Nineteenth Century French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville, when he considered American democracy, wrote…“Without common ideas, there is no common action, and without common action men still exist, but a social body does not. Thus in order that there be society, and all the more, that this society prosper, it is necessary that all the minds of the citizens always be brought together and held together by some principle ideas”. More recently Yuval Noah Harari wrote in Sapiens…”Any large-scale human cooperation — whether a modern state, a medieval church, an ancient city, or an archaic tribe — is rooted in common myths that exist only in people’s collective imagination”. Using the word myth is disconcerting, but the essence of the point is beyond dispute. We cannot cooperate unless there are things we believe in common.
The miracle of American democracy has been built upon the essential values articulated in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This miracle is teetering on the edge of destruction because there is no longer a common view of what these Constitutional values mean. On the far left is the view that puts conflict and materialism and resentment at the centre of historical understanding. On the far right there appears equal doses of resentment and violence for different reasons. Both perspectives seem a far cry from…”We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men (people) are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
Amidst the chaos currently tearing at the heart of America, we can see the dystopian possible outcomes by looking to places like China or Russia. In China, there is a common belief system shared by the powerful few. Upon that foundation, a totalitarian surveillance state, cloaked increasingly in the language of democracy, seeks to build a functioning society. There, all people must kowtow to the rights granted to them by the state, and express any reservations at their peril. There is no authentic common belief at the core of the society, but rather proscribed beliefs based on a materialistic view of what a human is. Russia is a less orderly, more messy example of such.
Our Common Humanity
To find a way through we must find and agree upon the most fundamental, deeply rooted elements of being human. These beliefs cannot, by their very nature, be forced upon anyone. For that to be possible the beliefs must be based on what is universally true. Only then can we cooperate to build a just society that supports what is fundamental about being human.
I do not pretend to have greater skill than the writers of the Declaration of Independence in articulating these essential truths. I believe that it is a universal truth that all people are created equal, and that we are indeed “endowed by our Creator”, not the state, with unalienable rights, among which the most fundamental are life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is our collective attempt to express what is true about being human..”All humans are free and equal in dignity and rights”.
It is my dream that these fundamental elements of what it means to be human will triumph over those that seek to crush them. It is my belief, and experience, that people in China love life, long to be free and seek happiness in their lives. Controlled information, propaganda and a police state, can blunt and destroy the inner dreams of millions for the sake of economic development and social stability, but over time our Common Humanity will triumph.
At the root of being human, is that we are in essence the same. On the foundation of this fundamental sameness, what I would call our Common Humanity, an incredible diversity of forms and expressions is expressed. Hence the analogy of tending the garden. The soil, the ground, the basis of who we are is the same. From that soil a magnificent garden grows.
From Particular To Common
Here is a short statement of my particular belief and experience of what it is to be human. We are a particular expression of Consciousness. From the Field of Consciousness (what some may call God) we arise as a unique expression of the nature of that Consciousness. Our essential purpose is to express the Peaceful nature of Consciousness through service and love. As a logical extension of that belief and experience, all humans are precious and worthy of existence, love, and freedom.
We must find a way to move from the particular to a view that we can hold in common, that promotes peaceful, prosperous and orderly societies that also support the right for each person to exist, be free and pursue happiness.
What then is this soil of existence, our Common Humanity?
- We exist and are aware.
- Our right to exist, to be free and to pursue happiness is innate.
- We are capable of cooperating to build communities and societies that support the flourishing of these innate qualities of humans.
History shows this cooperation is far from easy, but this cooperation should be based on the power of our common humanity, not on the force wielded by a few.
The American experiment of democracy, for all of its faults, has been a critical historical example of our progress in building free societies. As it teeters on the brink, we must…we must, head to our Common Ground. Our desire for peace and freedom will not be achieved by focusing on the storms of our differences, but by standing firmly on the ground of our similarities and deeply rooted Common Humanity, from where we can celebrate, nurture and honour our differences.
Let us tender the garden of our Common Humanity together.