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Unify Individual & Collective Wellbeing

Conceptualizing Unified Cultures

Uni­fi­ca­tion, in its true sense, does not dull or sup­press, but rather hon­ors the fullest expres­sion of diver­si­ty. The ways in which we each uni­fy the dif­fer­ent parts of who we are—our aspi­ra­tions, lim­i­ta­tions, and realities—and weave them togeth­er defines who each of us are as indi­vid­u­als.

Though we might not always be aware, we are indeed all inte­grat­ed with­in a state of inter-being. The more we fail to notice the ever-present inter­con­nect­ed­ness of life, the more we mis­take our place on this plan­et. One of the great­est errors we as humans make is to see our­selves as sep­a­rate from nature. This sense of sep­a­ra­tion can have dras­tic con­se­quences.

E pluribus unum / One from many

There are two dif­fer­ent ways of regard­ing rela­tion­ships: either through a lens of atom­iza­tion or through the per­spec­tive of holis­tic inte­gra­tion. In soci­ol­o­gy, atom­ism refers to a frame­work in which the indi­vid­ual is the pri­ma­ry unit of analy­sis by which every­thing else is under­stood. In con­trast, holis­tic inte­gra­tion states that all the var­i­ous parts of a sys­tem are inter­con­nect­ed. We believe in the impor­tance of describ­ing sys­tems such that each piece of the puz­zle is acknowl­edged for its neces­si­ty. In this way, a sense of belong­ing cor­re­sponds to bal­anced inte­gra­tion and inter­re­la­tion.

The col­lec­tive requires the indi­vid­ual many times over. Con­verse­ly, the indi­vid­ual van­ish­es with­out the col­lec­tive to sup­ply con­text. Among the near­ly infi­nite expres­sions of life, the web of human activ­i­ty is dis­tinc­tive in its emis­sions of light and gas. We also sig­nif­i­cant­ly con­tribute to out­pour­ings of love, which occurs through res­o­nant con­nec­tions between indi­vid­u­als.

“I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all togeth­er” — John Lennon, “I am the Wal­rus”, 1967

Still from “Spa­tial Bod­ies”, AUJIK, 2016
“Hyp­no­sis”, Iris Van Her­pen

When we feel a sense of con­nec­tion, we are more in touch with our true selves. The acknowl­edge­ment that every­body is going through some great jour­ney, strug­gle, or even suf­fer­ing can serve to alle­vi­ate the heavy ten­sion that some­times dom­i­nates the thoughts of our dai­ly expe­ri­ence. We can feel ela­tion when we exer­cise our innate dri­ve to con­nect with oth­ers or with a place. Feel­ings of sep­a­ra­tion from one anoth­er and the envi­ron­ment also cut us off from our­selves. When we feel deprived of sup­port­ive rela­tion­ships, it becomes more dif­fi­cult to find mean­ing, so we sub­sti­tute mean­ing with sen­sa­tion. We end up look­ing for solace in tem­po­rary dis­trac­tion, liv­ing only for iso­lat­ed instances of sen­so­ry stim­u­la­tion. With rep­e­ti­tion of over-stim­u­la­tion, our sens­es can become dulled, leav­ing us per­pet­u­al­ly dis­sat­is­fied. In this state, we are in great need of find­ing ways to come togeth­er.

“Ulti­ma­tum”, Jake Ama­son x Zach Jack­son, 2016

Com­mu­ni­ty plays a crit­i­cal role in the devel­op­ment of unity—it’s built into the word itself. How might we con­cep­tu­al­ize and exam­ine the idea of a com­plete­ly uni­fied civ­i­liza­tion? Adopt­ing dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives than our own may help. Even shift­ing between dif­fer­ent points of view with­in our own out­look can help open our minds and modes of expe­ri­ence.

In The Prac­tice of Every­day Life, the writer Michel de Certeau describes two points of view with­in a city: that of the voyeur and that of the walk­er. The walk­er is always in the midst of expe­ri­ence. Vision is lim­it­ed to what is near­by. She or he only expe­ri­ences the sights and the sounds of what is imme­di­ate­ly in front of each step tak­en. How­ev­er, for the voyeur, expe­ri­ence is shaped by her or his van­tage point high above. From this per­spec­tive, every­thing appears more expan­sive. The voyeur is able to see what’s around every cor­ner, and over every hill. She or he can see the wider scope of our world with greater con­text, although per­haps less detail.

Each per­spec­tive holds val­ue. Where­as the walk­er expe­ri­ences the imme­di­a­cy and inti­ma­cy of life down on the street, the voyeur’s posi­tion allows for a view of how the city is orga­nized on the whole, and pro­vides insight into the inner work­ings of gov­ern­ments and cor­po­ra­tions. Yet, isn’t the wis­est option to find a way to expe­ri­ence both per­spec­tives? We believe that only by hav­ing first-hand expe­ri­ence as both a walk­er and a voyeur can one real­ly under­stand how best to maneu­ver the var­i­ous inter­con­nect­ed facets of con­tem­po­rary life.

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Unify Individual & Collective Wellbeing

Difference Enriches Interactions

Uni­fi­ca­tion need not imply uni­for­mi­ty. What are the prin­ci­ples that will enable all peo­ple every­where to be val­ued for their unique gifts?

“Always remem­ber that you are absolute­ly unique. Just like every­one else.”— Mar­garet Mead

“Uni­ty in diver­si­ty” is a mil­len­nia-old con­cept, although, it could be said that it has nev­er been more impor­tant to under­stand it than today. Glob­al­iza­tion, for bet­ter or worse, has shrunk the world, and the state of our future depends on our abil­i­ty to cre­ate a uni­fied human response to the prob­lems we face.

Sufi schol­ar Ibn Ara­bi, born in the 12th cen­tu­ry, wrote on the idea of a “uni­ty of being”. This meta­phys­i­cal world­view posi­tions God as the one truth, the sin­gle enti­ty that defines all real­i­ty. All oth­er beings or beliefs emerge from this God as a sin­gu­lar source of life. All diver­si­ty is con­sid­ered to be root­ed in this essence, count­less valid expres­sions spring from this one, sin­gle truth. At the risk of appro­pri­at­ing and dilut­ing a rich cor­pus of philo­soph­i­cal thought, adopt­ing this idea may prove help­ful to over­come the chal­lenges of widen­ing dis­par­i­ties in mod­ern glob­al­ized soci­ety.

The bold vision of team­work, we believe will empow­er all who par­tic­i­pate, relies on a rad­i­cal diver­si­ty of skills, per­spec­tives, and iden­ti­ties. Humans have the capac­i­ty to over­come lin­guis­tic rel­a­tiv­i­ty by learn­ing more lan­guages and by becom­ing more famil­iar with oth­er cul­tures. An old east­ern Euro­pean proverb imparts, “The more lan­guages you speak, the more human you become.” The more we can each embrace and incor­po­rate diver­si­ty into our own lives, the more we will con­tribute to a more diverse, and whole­some, net­work of inter­ac­tions.

We are always in flux. Change is still our most reli­able con­stant. And with change will come con­flict. But con­flict is not to be feared. Con­flict cre­ates oppor­tu­ni­ty for the emer­gence of points of view that did not pre­vi­ous­ly have a plat­form. The clash between dif­fer­ing points of view can come to define cul­ture and help us under­stand his­tor­i­cal moments. We will like­ly nev­er elim­i­nate con­flict. It might even be occa­sion­al­ly nec­es­sary. But con­flict can be dealt with pro­duc­tive­ly if we accept that it is the means by which new modes of think­ing and liv­ing can come to be.

The basic build­ing blocks of human life are all the same, no mat­ter who you are or where you come from. We each need clean air and water, nutri­tious food, suit­able shel­ter, and authen­tic human con­tact. And cru­cial­ly, we all need the plan­et in a healthy state in order to con­tin­ue to help pro­vide us with these neces­si­ties. But beyond these base needs, we have more high­er-lev­el pri­or­i­ties like: the need to feel under­stood, to be loved, to be respect­ed for who we are, and to live in align­ment with our per­son­al val­ues. At our most fun­da­men­tal lev­els, we share these uni­fy­ing require­ments of our being. All diver­si­ty of view­points ulti­mate­ly emerges as inter­pre­ta­tions of these shared needs.

Some­what counter-intu­itive­ly, some uni­for­mi­ty is required to pro­tect diver­si­ty. Intu­itive­ly, we under­stand that all peo­ple must have equal rights, equal oppor­tu­ni­ties, and equal free­dom from oppres­sion to ade­quate­ly thrive. Even more para­dox­i­cal­ly, some forms of intol­er­ance must be main­tained in order to main­tain tol­er­ance. The need to be intol­er­ant of those who advance intol­er­ant ideas was explained by philoso­pher Karl Pop­per in his 1945 work, The Open Soci­ety and its Ene­mies. With­in its pages, Pop­per wrote:

Walthers Man­u­script, intend­ed as a sci­en­tif­ic text­book for monks, c.a 1200

“If we extend unlim­it­ed tol­er­ance even to those who are intol­er­ant, if we are not pre­pared to defend a tol­er­ant soci­ety against the onslaught of the intol­er­ant, then the tol­er­ant will be destroyed, and tol­er­ance with them. ” — Karl Pop­per

While sup­port­ing the use of ratio­nal argu­ment as the first line of defense against intol­er­ant ideas, Pop­per con­cedes that respond­ing with force can become nec­es­sary if the intol­er­ant group in ques­tion have them­selves denounced the prac­tice of ratio­nal argu­ment and begun to use vio­lence.

Despite all the vari­ance in our expe­ri­ences and per­cep­tions, we can still gen­er­al­ly find a way to con­nect to each oth­er on a human lev­el. We all have to fig­ure out how to make our indi­vid­u­at­ed, and ever-chang­ing, thoughts and inten­tions work in har­mo­ny with one anoth­er, so we’re not in a con­stant bat­tle zone of con­flict­ing pat­terns.

Var­i­ous ways of con­struct­ing and inter­pret­ing real­i­ty show us the incred­i­ble vari­ance of the human con­di­tion. To be a human is to be a tiny dot on an immense­ly, vast spec­trum of expe­ri­ence. The entire human species itself rep­re­sents anoth­er dot on an even larg­er spec­trum of being that stretch­es through time and space. To hold that truth in your brain is one step toward a greater tol­er­ance for oth­ers. This acknowl­edge­ment of uni­fi­ca­tion through dif­fer­ence might help ease the ten­sions that arise when our unique dif­fer­ences come into con­flict with one anoth­er.

17th cen­tu­ry illus­trat­ed ver­sion of “Mar­vels of Things Cre­at­ed and ­Mirac­u­lous Aspects of Things Exist­ing”, Zakariya al-Qazwi­ni
“Liv­ing Pho­tographs”, fea­tur­ing 18,000 peo­ple, Mole & Thomas, 1915
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