Sunday, April 4, 2010

What Unites Us is Greater than What Divides Us


There is a phrase that I think is important, but is overused and well on its way to becoming a cliché and that is: “What unites us is greater than what divides us!”  President John F. Kennedy used it in his 1961 address to Canadian Parliament: “Geography has made us neighbors.  History has made us friends.  Economics has made us partners.  And necessity has made us allies.  Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.  What unites us is far greater than what divides us."
The current US President, Barack Obama also used the idea in his speech this past Martin Luther King Junior Day: “through times of great challenge and great change, we have remembered that fundamental American truth - that what unites us is always more powerful than what divides us.”
But the idea is not strictly American, as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon has recently used it in two different speeches.  First, in April of 2009, in his address to the Alliance of Civilizations forum in Istanbul, “What unites is so powerful it could easily overcome what divides us.”  Next, in November of 2009 in his speech to the Summit of Religious and Secular Leaders on Climate Change in London, “We are united by the belief that what unites us as human beings is stronger than what divides us.”  
What is it that unites us all?  Is it greater than what divides us?  What do YOU think?
Artwork by Cindy Hesse.  Many thanks.

9 comments:

Zakariyya said...

This is a good thread because it reminds us that the statement “What unites us is stronger than what divides us” is great but in this form it is an abstract phrase therefore lacks feeling and needs to be elaborated on in order for people to be reminded of what actually unites us, since the way humans act it is clear we often forget.

We’re united by everything we just don’t see it because we view reality superficially.

For example, most religions are the same only different in nomenclature, underneath the symbols there is a unifying truth.

Also, all people have the same fears, hopes, and dreams, just differences in outer form.

These things aren’t apparent to the superficial thinker therefore it appears that people should be reminded in words that go underneath the surface of reality to the core and essence of things in order for us to feel and see what unifies us

Nabil said...

What unites us is our basic humanity.
We care about other humans. When we see someone suffering, we feel a need to help, even if we do not.
We are also united in our belief in justice. If we see someone abusing another, we know and accept that the abuser is wrong, and that the victim should be protected. Even if we can't protect the victim.
What unites us is love. We love others. We love nature. There are endless ways of love. Even when we do not show the love.
We are also united in the search for a better tomorrow for our children, and the next generations. Even when we fail to do so.

What unite us, are individuals, like Barak Obama, who speaks to our aspirations and connects our souls.

Those who insist on staying outside our unity, are the self serving ones. They could care less about humanity being united. They care only about what benefits them.

Wehireu said...

There is plenty that unites, unfortunately in most people negative emotions tend to drown out positive ones.

Nicholas said...

I believe that what unites us is much deeper than mere nationality, ethnicity, gender or misfortunes (which if you think about it is what usually creates the stronger bonds between people). What I believe in is that our nature, the source of our consciousness, is the same for all of us. Some call that God, some others call it something else, but the way I see it, God (let's call it God for simplicity), is actually everything. The metaphor I use is this; every movie you see on the big screen has a white projection light shinning over pictures, that in motion, produce the movie. Every different movie has the same white light shinning over them, though the movies can be totally different. I see God as the white light, and each one of us as the set of pictures that make the movies. God is within all of us, or, in a deeper context, God is the pure form of all of us, the white light, and we color our individuality with our own personalities. That white light being from the same source, and being part of all of us, is the common denominator of all of us; therefore it is what connect us. I also think that though people in this evolutionary stage still don't see this and; therefore feeling themselves isolated from each other on their own islands of selfishness, we as a race will see this sooner or later, since I believe that feeling of oneness is what will eradicate all suffering.
Just my two cents.

Mirjana said...

In the trial time when they are threatened by the common enemy, which could be a natural disaster or another group of people, people are united by their same existential need to survive. Although even in such times there are individual egos or lower level consciousness games that pull some individuals from the group so that they act according only to their strict personal interest.

Different opinions, beliefs, are that what divide people. Again here, what unites people around the same opinions or beliefs is the same or similar level of consciousness.
The same or similar level of consciousness will always find the way for the common approach to life, solving problems... Challenges will not be separation force but motivating force.

Dan said...

I think Nabil did a superb job of capturing what unites us, so I have nothing to add to it.

As for the question of whether or not it is greater than what divides us:

In specific cases, we as individuals are faced with choices every day that help to determine the answer to that question within ourselves. We are imbued with the gift of free will, the power to decide whether we will align our thoughts and actions with the greater good or act with self-interest.

In the grand scheme of things, I truly believe that what unites us is greater than what divides us. I forget the name of the man who shot Pope John Paul II, but the point is how the Pope responded to it: He visited the man in prison and forgave him. The man burst into tears and felt genuine remorse. Selfish thoughts, feelings and actions build barriers around our hearts. It must have taken many such thoughts and feelings, over years of time, to insulate a man's heart so much that he was willing and able to point a gun at someone else and pull the trigger--but one simple act of compassion on the part of the Pope was able to burn that barrier away and soften the man's heart. I have seen this time and time again, and I have experienced it for myself. The highest virtues--love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy--can melt away that which divides us, and elevates all parties involved. With that in mind, there is no contest: In the fullness of time, I am sure that the things that unite us will ultimately prevail.

Ilah said...

We all want to feel safe. Yet we can’t agree on what reasonable security measures are.

We all want good health. Yet we can’t agree on how to provide health care for people.

Even the things that unite us divide us.

Scott said...

I agree with all that's been said,ecspecially in a higher humanity sense. Humanity without borders. But bringing this down to ground level, where there are wars and politicing, I think there is an interesting phenomena which divides us.

Our higher nature works thru us in all the ways Nabil pointed out, even across borders when put in personal situations. However our lower nature works uncounciously most often in the day to day. This lower natures driving force is survival. One adaptation we've learned thru physical evolution is the strength in numbers, group numbers, against other groups. This is embedded in the genes of our lower self on a genetic and pyche level. The genetic, physical level worries about survival. The psyche worries about acceptance. Birds a' feather flock together. If I'm with those who are most like me, if I compromise a little and believe as the group, I will not be rejected. These are hard things to overcome. And I'm not sure they are meant to be.

We often think that there is some magical understanding that can unite the world, that the world needs fixing. Maybe that will happen some day. Maybe it is a goal of humanity, but I don't think it's the way things are set up now. We can't say 'that group is wrong and they should see things this way', for that group may be saying the same about our group. It's a matter of what we believe the purpose of life to be. If we think it is to reconcile all differences and create a lasting peace on Earth, we will be banging our head against the wall because everyone has a different picture of how that would be. This is not to say that we shouldn't try. Whether attainable or not, I think such a desire is something to strive for, and we will always learn from it whether joy or sufferin come from it.

If we think the purpose of life is to be a soup of diversity where everyone can learn their own personal lessons and evolve spiritually, we may accept that there will always be conflict in the world. And that it is not only ok, but that this is the way it should be. And in these lessons we can still strive for a perfect world, and learn from such ventures as long as we see that others, doing the same from there point of view, is going to create division.

Some Muslims want world unity by all becoming Muslim. Some Christians want world unity by all becoming Christian. Are they both wrong? Are they both right? Or is the question wrong?

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