After the last post on the importance if pausing, a friend commented on Twitter that she valued the reminder that dissent isn’t always personal. What caught my attention about this particular comment by this particular person is that I know that she is a strong proponent of the idea that unity does not necessarily require uniformity. That is to say that people with differing opinions could still be part of a larger grouping without contradiction.
In this one comment I suddenly realized that herein lies the problem with so many of our great ideals. We want to say that we can have unity without uniformity. This is our espoused position. But actually our operational position is to take offense when anyone thinks differently to the way I do. In that interior disjuncture lies the root of our failure to actually achieve unity without uniformity.
I can’t help but wonder what other of our grand ideals fail in the same place? Where else do we fail to notice the disparity between our own operational mode and the ideals that we espouse?
It reminds me of one of the saying of one of the Desert Fathers, John the Dwarf:
‘He said: “You don’t build a house by starting with the roof and working down. You start with the foundation.” They said, “What does that mean?” He said, “The foundation is our neighbor whom we must win. The neighbor is where we must start. Every commandment of Christ depends on this.”
I am not trying to pick on my friend, it is just so much easier to notice such inconsistencies in someone else than it is to notice them in myself. I am grateful to her for her comment, because it has raised an important question for me. One I will sit with for some time to come.