Exploring co-humanity is never a waste of time. In fact, it seems to be the only doorway that will open up a possibility for respectful ideological exchanges. The following are several examples of co-human encounters. This list will get you started. Getting people together is a creative process and the only thing that limits your options is your own imagination.
Language is labeler-in-chief. Simply pointing to something and identifying it with a word is an act of labeling. As such, labels (however incomplete) are extremely helpful shortcuts. They allow humans to communicate about everything from nuanced physical science to emotional states and abstract ideas. Still, excessive and aggressive ideological labeling can backfire and cause deepening divides.
When Does It Help and When Does It Hurt?
With that in mind, rethink your use. Examine when labeling helps and when it hurts.
For example, in one of our workshops, two doctors started talking about the use of disease labels. They both agreed that labels could be helpful diagnostic tools but that when patients start clinging to those labels (as in “my [disease name]”), it could often backfire and prevent patients from getting better. Analytical labels were never supposed to become an integral part of someone’s identity.
In addition, look to your personal experiences. Have you ever used labels to describe another person and later found out that you were wrong? What did that feel like and how did it change your thinking? What about the opposite, that is, other people labeling you and being wrong? What did that feel like?
Obviously, there is a time and place to employ labels in our communications, but when we are dealing with ideological differences, it can be helpful to slow down, ask questions, and consider nuances rather than painting everything black and white with simple narratives and easy to apply stickers.
Rev. Gudjon Bergmann
Interfaith Minister and Author
Founder of Harmony Interfaith Initiative
The human persona (click here to read more about the two personas) consists of elements that are shared by every other human being on the planet. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a good place to start when we are trying to understand co-humanity.
The model is usually presented in a pyramid format, with basic needs at the bottom and self-actualization needs at the top.
The premise for engaging in shared human experiences (which is something we encourage here at Harmony Interfaith Initiative) is fairly simple. If people can be around each other doing co-human things—i.e., things that everyone does, such as eating food, helping others, creating, talking about their family, sharing their life story, etc.—and not feel threatened, anxieties are reduced, empathy is increased, trust is built, and perceptions are changed.
More in Common
Here’s the thing. Birds of a feather flock together. People self-segregate. This is both natural and normal so long as it is not coerced. Individuals choose to be around others who are like them.
And yet, most folks make a noteworthy discovery when they set aside visual and ideological distinctions and mingle with people who they previously thought of as completely different, essentially, that they have more in common than they realized.
When I moved from Iceland to Texas in 2010, I was forced to face several unconscious and uncharacteristically judgmental attitudes.
In Iceland, I had labeled myself a political moderate and my voting history included both center-right and center-left political parties (plural, as in, there are a lot of political parties in Iceland, not just the two choices we have here in the USA).
Furthermore, I stood outside of organized religion as a part of the spiritual-but-not-religious movement. I thought of myself as fairly evolved spiritually and predominantly free of pejorative views.
Yet, after we arrived, I struggled mightily with many of the religious and political ideologies I was faced with in Texas. For a while there, I couldn’t even get myself to interact with people who showed different ideological preferences.
Connecting Through Our Shared Humanity
Thank goodness for my wife and kids. Because of my children, who were two and seven when we moved to Texas, I’ve interacted with a number of parents through everything from sports and band to Girl Scouts and Mu Sool Won. Furthermore, my wife, who is a natural connector, has brought me along to crawfish boils, dinner clubs, game nights, and more.
The time, when diversity was a mere ideology, has long passed. In the modern era, diversity is a reality. People of all colors, faiths, and creeds are living side-by-side in societies all across the world—nowhere more so than here in the USA.
People who rail against diversity as an ideology are behind the times. They have not yet accepted the reality of what has happened. Some are trying to turn back the tide, but the tide will not turn. Diversity is here to stay.
The Only Question Is...
The only question we are faced with is whether or not we are going to make this new reality work for all of us. In some areas of the world, communities have adapted, but others are still struggling.
If people have been brought up to believe that diversity is an ideology, the resistance is understandable. They believe that they are preserving their way of life by railing against the changes. “Why can’t it be like it’s always been?” they ask.
In an age of pluralism and diversity, this is difficult to say, but, by my estimates, every celebration of diversity creates subtle divisions. Here is my thinking. When I acknowledge that you come from a different culture, a different background, and a different race and we celebrate that then divisions remain. Every time I see you I am reminded of how different we are.
We could do it differently. We could honor each other’s culture, background, and race, but then move on to explore and celebrate similarities. Afterwards, parallels would remain. Every time we’d see each other, we’d be reminded of our likenesses.
What Color Are the Apples?
For example, when you saw the picture that accompanies this column, what did you notice first, the fact that all the fruits were apples or that one apple was in color and the others were grey?
Ideas that promote social harmony and bridge-building across divides.
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Our mission is to train and support people who want to do good in the world. We do this by providing access to strategies, methods, and ideas that promote social harmony and enable bridge-building across divides. Our primary goal is to help others create harmony in diverse communities.
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Registered in Hays County, Texas
Founded in 2018
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