Division and Unity: What Unites Us

Today is the last service in the month of November. All this month, we focused on the theme of Division and Unity. I think we discovered that it is far easier for us to be divided than to be united. Although we know that unity will bring us a happier world and greater happiness in our individual lives, the drive to separate seems terribly strong. 

We have talked about how race and religion and nationality and even our own unity can divide us one from another and group from group. 

At last week's evening service, we talked specifically at a division in our society that politicians have tried to tuck out of sight like an embarrassing aunt locked in an upstairs room. That division is based on class, and it is not gone. It is here with us and part of our work has to be to confront that and other divisions. 

Today, though, we will explore the more difficult challenge of unity. How can we unite as individuals and as groups when division is as easy as falling off of a slippery wet log? 

Unity is very much a spiritual and religious subject. 

Christian monk and mystic Thomas Merton declares: "We are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are." 

Joseph Campbell put it this way "Our true reality is in our identity and unity with all life." 

And Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh speaks passionately of what he calls "interbeing." To Hanh, there is no difference between you and me - we are one and we only need to discover that unity to be enlightened. 

I know how that the notion of oneness is deeply appealing. I know that it offers us a vision of a world without human division and strife. I know that the people who have spoken of such a Unity throughout time have been wise, deeply spiritual, and have attracted people to them with a quality of being that we can not fail to recognise as special and right.

What I do not know is whether in some factual kind of way, this Unity is true or real. 

There are certainly some ways in which it is indeed technically true. Consider that most of the molecules that make up who you are today were not part of you seven years ago. Where did they come from? Among other places, they came from everyone around you. They came from water evaporated from a puddle in central China. They came from the exhalation of a Galapagos finch and the cells shed from the wing of a monarch butterfly in Nigeria. 

Ultimately, those molecules came from the same source as everything in the universe - the primordial point of infinitely dense matter that exploded and created all that we know. 

So, who are you if all of this keeps changing? You are simply a way that some of the stuff of the universe is arranged at the moment - just a way that universal stuff has come together for a little while. 

Technically then, I am you and you are me - or if we're not yet, wait a few thousand years and we will be. 

This is a profound truth to me. eventually, there is no difference between you and me and the seats in which you are sitting right now. However, in the short term, I find that this does not do very much to ease our feelings of separateness, our fear, our suspicion, our anger, and our division. 

If we are to find our Unity, we must find something more immediate, something more tangible and open to our experience than our ultimate molecular oneness. 

Our story today was a wonderful tale of how listening and compassion enabled the bridging of seemingly irreconcilable differences. A boy who happened to listen to the stories of a terrifying dragon was no longer a stranger to that creature - no longer afraid. Once he knew the dragon's true story, he could not react with fear. A connection was created between them that could not be destroyed by fear. 

This, I submit, is the true path to our unity. The deep understanding of the yearnings, the joys, and the sorrows of another reveals our basic unity. 

It does so because - whilst we are very different from one another - so much of our experience is universal. 

I want to share a poem written by Guy Finley. It may be familiar to you - I hope it is or that it will be because Finley's words provide the crucial link between self-understanding and unity, between seeking our own personal wholeness and the emergence of the wholeness of all. 

" If you know the content of your own heart ...
If you can be consciously aware of this condition ...
Then you not only know the secret contents
Of the heart of everyone else you meet,
But you also know that there is no difference
Between you and all of these "others" 

If you can be consciously aware of this condition
Then you not only know the secret contents
Of the heart of everyone else you meet,
But you also know that there is no difference
Between you and all of these "others" 

In the realization of this undivided life
You are given the Grace of knowing
That God is one ... And that each one of us
Is a secret measure of His divine life." 

Let us forgive the poet for a bit of overstatement and for offering a traditional masculine image for God. 

When you know another's heart, you know that the differences are there, but that they are only different manifestations of deeper universal yearnings. When you know another's heart, you recognise there the longing you feel to be loved for who you are. You recognise there the fear you feel of being inadequate. You recognise the longing for safety and for peace. Your recognise the terror that your life will have been lived without purpose, without impact on others, and without mourning when you are gone. 

In these deeper yearnings, you know that there is no difference. Our depth is undivided. And we are simply a transitory, thinking, feeling, loving, arrangement of everything that is. Perhaps a good name for this everything is God. To paraphrase the words of a wise theologion, I don't care whether you choose to call it God or everything that is, or the universal, the all-in-one, Brahman, the Tao, Adonai or Allah - I only care that you call it forth. 

I care that you call this oneness forth. 

It doesn't matter whether oneness is literally true. Oneness is our salvation. Oneness is the recognition of something of you in me and something of me in you. Oneness among the people of the nations of the earth is the hope for peace and the hope for survival itself. 

Calling it forth means - not believing in oneness as a fact - but believing in oneness as a possibility - believing in oneness as an answer - believing in oneness as a way of being a faithful person of love in the world. 

We are part of everything and we can find our identity with that everything in the depths of our own and each other's hearts. 

I don't care what you call it. I only care that you call it forth.