By Rebecca Martin
UNITY: The state of being united or joined as a whole.
TOLERANCE: The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular, the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.
I think a lot about narratives in my community work because narratives and strategic messaging is key to achieving a good end result. Generally, when things turn out to worse, it’s because the majority doesn’t have good, factual information in a format that they can understand. Words matter – and when we fail, it’s because – at least in part – that our emotion got the best of us without a good, trusted (and factual) message to turn to.
So is it ‘unity’ or is it ‘tolerance’ that is most realistic in America if a dialogue is our end game?
“For everyone to be joined as a whole” as unity suggests, means the majority of one side needs to move over to the other. That’s beyond optimistic. That’s pollyanna.
Tolerance on the other hand, “the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular, the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with” seems achievable in potentially bringing together more who live in a polarized state. Neither side loses anything by listening and, there is hope to learn something in that process. There is also a better chance at keeping relationships that matter intact.
There have been moments in the last several months where I haven’t been very ‘tolerant’ while trying to ‘unify’. Recently, I was told by a conservative friend in a moment of emotion, “Now you know how I have felt throughout the Obama administration.” To try to unify in that moment made me more indignant.
Had my narrative been one of tolerance, I might have had a different personal reaction. I know this because in contemplating it now, I am already more at ease.
I work hard and want to learn. Being human, I make mistakes and have patterns that require me at times to take several turns around the barn. The topical in learning is to listen. The deeper, more complicated parts are to pay attention to the tapes running insistently through our minds, trying to decipher what is true and what is not at any given moment. The gift in the work is from time to time, having access to our unique roadmap with a wisdom that is both mysterious and ancient.
On an even more personal note, music is the most compassionate teacher that I know. Beyond what I want it to do for me in the material world, what it provides is that infinite wisdom that I refer to and my access to it relies completely on the truth. To struggle to get there isn’t a punishment. It is work to get back to simple. Synchronicity and glimpses of grace, its reward. The same could be said for having a child. For having a pet. For getting lost in the woods. What a glorious opportunity to see simple in it’s most raw and real form. These are all miraculous reminders as we age and when we think we have seen and know it all.
Therefore, my personal reflection and new narrative today, that of tolerance. I’ll place the concept of unifying in the sandbox where it belongs.