Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Flower Garden Of Humanity

According to scientists who study these things, there are over 60,000 primary forms of vertebrate animals on earth, well over a million invertebrate animals, and over 300,000 plant forms. There are currently over seven billion human beings living on earth. These seven billion are commonly divided into four primary races, subdivided into around 30 racial subgroups, spread across more than 5000 ethnic groups, speaking 6909 recognized living languages (Scientific American).

While exact statistics on these classifications can vary from source to source and scientist to scientist, it is nevertheless unavoidable to conclude that the number of categories of earthly life can be staggeringly overwhelming. And that is before you get to the detailed level of the individual element in any category – e.g. seven billion unique human beings. In the midst of such numbers and unique individuality, it can be easy to ask: Why do all of these variations exist?

Is not one form of a cow sufficient to provide the milk and meat needed to feed our bodies? One form of bee to fulfill the need for pollination? One form of grain sufficient to provide us with the carbohydrates needed to fuel our body? We respond by saying NO, that all of our available variations in milk products, meats, fruits, honeys, and breads give us great pleasure in our lives. They open us to seemingly endless possibilities of tastes, experiences and memories. Pity those who never move beyond their childhood diet!

As it is with our sources of bodily support, so it is also with people. God created the conditions for these many ethnic groups and their distinct cultures, placed them into vastly different landscapes and climate conditions, gave them an indigenous diet and culture, and encouraged them to create their own spiritual interpretations and stories to explain it all. It was done precisely to illustrate the vast scope, forms and potentialities that make up all of Creation. By their very existence, these differing forms tell us that there is no one way, no single form, exclusive to any aspect of Life. Our individual “I’s” are not the standard model, but merely one example.

Each living thing has a particular functional role to perform within the organized structure of Creation. But each simultaneously shows us how many possible shapes, opportunities, and manifestations of a single idea can flow out of God’s imagination. I am a white male living a lifetime in America. My life reflects all of the structures and cultural experiences and geography that living in America confers on me. Yet with a simple flip of a Universe switch, I could just as easily be a female; a Tibetan, a German, a Peruvian, an Australian, a Japanese, or a Nigerian; or a very different product living somewhere else in America. My life experiences, and therefore my opinions and perspectives shaped by them, are unique only to me. But would I still be the same ME even if my appearance and circumstances were different? Does our outer form substantially change our inner being?

As humans, we live as distinct individual beings. Yet we are also a connected part of an inter-dependent whole across the planet. We are one individual, yet simultaneously part of one family of many members. We spend much of our time focused on our differences among each other, and those differences often frustrate if not frighten us. We protest, “Why can’t ‘they’ be like us in their thinking, actions, institutions, culture, religion?” Sometimes our protests even lead us to violence. God answers us: “Because you are not the whole world. ‘They’ exist to constantly remind you by their very presence that Creation is bigger than just you and your circumstances. You are only one example of Creation; they are examples of many other possibilities, any of which could have been you. Each is perfect in its own way, so embrace them all even in your differences. They are as much YOU as you are.”

As long as we see THEM as “other,” and reject them for their otherness, we reject the whole purpose of Creation. When we subsume ourselves to that great Creation, we do not lose ourselves as we may fear. Instead, we open ourselves to all the possibilities that exist for our own life, and see the scope and richness of beauty that is Creation. By recognizing our smallness, we fulfill our bigness. Our little piece of Life is miniscule, and that recognition allows us to see not differences, but options and “could have been’s” from which our life has been carved out. When we encounter “the Other,” our job is not to try to change them, deny them, ridicule them, see them as lesser to us. Our job is to see God’s creation in them: no better or worse than ourselves; just a different unique tree in the expansive human forest. In that forest, we embrace rather than reject; feel excitement rather than fear; see possibilities for ourselves rather than judgements.

Creation did not make us so different just for its amusement, or to make us fearful of each other, or to simply delight in driving us crazy. It was certainly not to create a competition among us for “who’s right.” Like all of creation, it was done with purpose. It was to show us all the “rights” that can exist in the world, how many potential paths of living are possible, and that they can all coexist side-by-side. Thereby, we are reminded that all we are, all we do, is just one piece of the Universe’s mosaic. Thereby, these differences require us to encounter choices and make decisions – our decisions – about which road out of the many we will follow. These options allow us to feel the joy of being a part of the overpowering palate that God has provided, within which our one life plays out. Seeing that breadth; living fully in harmony with it; subsuming our Self to this whole, while simultaneously finding fulfillment in our One Self. This is God’s daily gift, yet challenge, to us: to revel, celebrate and wonder at the vast scope of human possibilities.

In our home gardens, we intentionally plant a variety of flowers – different colors, sizes, shapes and species. They bloom at different times, require different care, complement and enhance each other’s presence side by side. It is a festival of nature at its best, illuminated in a bouquet of color. We love each plant on its own, yet enjoy a visual feast and satisfaction from the integrated totality of the garden. So it is with God: loving each created human for his/her individuality, yet receiving great joy in the blended aggregation of humanity. Can we not be as God and share fully – with overwhelming joy – in our geographic, racial, gender, cultural and social diversity?

©   2017   Randy Bell