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How to Reach Unity When There Appear to be Two Sides

Motorcycle rallyMAUDE: When I first came to Santa Barbara, over forty years ago, my husband (at the time) and I had the address of only one person to make contact with. We had been given his address because we shared a connection through a spiritual group. He knew very little about us, but he welcomed us and our seven year old son into his house and offered to let us stay with him until we found a place of our own. He was a staunch conservative at the time and we were activist liberals. Yet this never came between us in any way. In fact, it led to many interesting, thoughtful conversations. I have often reflected that if it were not for our shared connection, we would never have had anything to do with each other and would probably never even have met. Yet we have been fast friends for well over forty years now. Our commonality is much stronger than our shifting differences of opinion.

Phil and I have been talking about how people can unify rather than become divided. Coming together takes place through relationships. We are both of the opinion that this is far more natural than the artificial divisions that have been so prevalent in all of our lives in these past years.

We all have far more in common than what appears to divides us. We have in recent blogs addressed some of the ways to realize these basic aspects: looking at similarities rather than differences and coming from love as opposed to fear. We encounter this commonality in our overlapping interests and life activities.

I was thinking about our writing group in this context, a group we have attended for many years, with people entering and leaving, and several remaining through the years. These are people who we have gotten to know through this shared interest who we would probably otherwise have never met. Everyone shares their writing and gets supportive and constructive feedback. Everyone shows kindness and compassion and a desire to support and assist, and through this, we have gotten to know them intimately. I am so grateful for the enrichment of my life that has occurred by having these people in it.

At work, we are brought together with people we might otherwise never chose to associate with, and yet we often become close, sharing life’s joys, challenges and tribulations. The same occurs with the neighbors we accrue purely by the happenstance of where we live. And again, some of the deepest friendships can arise from these people we are thrown together with through no choice or bond.

Our common needs for food, shelter, respect, love far outweigh any imagined or momentary lines that divide us. Opposing ideas and thoughts, preferences and ways of expressing ourselves, these are all changing and readjusting as we learn and grow. Our basic connections through our humanity, our value in the world and to each other; these are the realities that unite us in our relationships and through our lives. Let’s emphasize the true values of our commonality and reach greater personal depth by respecting and honoring the unique diversity we each represent. This is the key to spreading peace one relationship at a time.

Phil commented: It’s a bit of a shock to realize that the other side – “them” – is in our circles. It is so easy to think of the other side as essentially alien – thinking and feeling completely differently from us. Yet there are these people we know; interesting, complex, talented. How can we use this small sample of “them” to soften the divisions?

Yet we can’t get to know 100 million people personally; at 10 seconds per person, that would take 30 years. No, the only way to do it it is to tackle our fear of strangers, and you can’t tackle fear by ignoring it – you have to pull it into the light, where it will shrivel up to a size that can be handled.

Pre-pandemic we visited Virginia City where, quite by chance, a 3-day biker rally was taking place. The town was overflowing with Harleys. Thousands of leather-clad bikers were filling up the boardwalks, walking around with open beer cups and spilling onto the street. This was a group we would normally have avoided and would, at the least, be wary of. Much to our surprise, we found the entire group to be totally chill and courteous and in no way hostile or threatening. It was really eye-opening and showed us just how wrong our preconceptions about people can be.

Photo credit: Phil Mayes

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Successful Relationship Reading Corner


Books on shelfThis week, we discussed how to reach unity when there appear to be two sides. The following articles discuss some of the myriad aspects connected with this issue.

Bridging America’s divides requires a willingness to work together without becoming friends first "Amid two crises – the pandemic and the national reckoning sparked by the killing of George Floyd – there have been anguished calls for Americans to come together across lines of race and partisanship. Change would come, a USA Today contributor wrote, only “when we become sensitized to the distress of our neighbors.” Empathy born of intimacy was the prepandemic solution to the nation’s fractured political landscape. If Americans could simply get to know one another, to share stories and appreciate each other’s struggles, civic leaders argued, we would develop a sense of understanding and empathy that would extend beyond the single encounter. But after studying how Americans cooperate, both in moments of political upheaval and in ordinary times, I am convinced that tackling America’s political divide demands more than intimacy – and less than it."

How cognitive bias can explain post-truth "Here, "post" is meant to indicate not so much the idea that we are "past" truth in a temporal sense (as in "postwar") but in the sense that truth has been eclipsed by less important matters like ideology. One of the deepest roots of post-truth has been with us the longest, for it has been wired into our brains over the history of human evolution: cognitive bias. Psychologists for decades have been performing experiments that show that we are not quite as rational as we think."

10 Tips for Talking to People You Can't Agree With "This holiday season, you could easily find yourself in situations where someone raises politically divisive topics. The holidays are likely to bring you in contact with relatives and in-laws who may have different views, creating uncomfortable feelings, awkward silences, or outright confrontations. Fortunately, there are ways to cope with the interpersonal strains, thanks to new insights on the difference between diversity and disagreement."

Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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