It’s been a couple of weeks since the horrific events that took place June 12th in Orlando, Florida. There has been enough time for me to look at the polarized reaction to the massacre that specifically targeted the LGBT community.
Not only did the gunman bring death and destruction, he seemed to inspire our community’s adversaries to advocate in favor of death to LGBT individuals across the nation. The Orlando gunman was the trigger to release the pent up animosity of those who hate.
Amidst our intense grief, the community’s response has been reasonably calm, for the most part. There have been calls for solidarity and unity within the community. This positive response has caused me to contemplate the concept of unity and how it applies to others and myself.
A couple of on-line dictionaries have included in their entries for the word, unity, some definitions that inspired some moments of contemplation: “the state or fact of being united or combined into one, as of the parts of a whole: unification” and especially “oneness of mind, feeling, etcetera, as among a number of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement”.
What also comes to mind is the pithy phrase, “United we stand, divided we fall”. Many sources attribute this saying to Aesop’s tale “The Four Oxen and the Lion”. Here is the entire fable:
“A Lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four. Hence, united we stand, divided we fall.”
The simple wisdom of the fable is obvious. It’s easy to imagine how this little story about unity can apply to our lives.
Like most people, I sometimes feel like a small voice in the wilderness, an insignificant individual in a planet of billions of people. For instance, I see the negative, hateful problem of bigotry and feel utterly powerless against its evil. There are so many people who are apathetic about the fact that there are plenty of people who advocate deadly violence towards people like me. What can I do?
My thoughts shift to that great teacher, history. There have been many instances when good people marshalled the drive and energy to subdue the periodic waves of hatred and violence.
They accomplished this by joining together with other like-minded individuals. When those individuals needed extra energy and action, they sought out allies from among other peoples who were also struggling against oppression.
There are many examples of unity of allies. We understand the obvious instance of the Second World War. We also remember the ongoing civil rights struggles by racial, ethnic, gender, and other minorities happening today. We see lone individuals who construct solidarity then work in concert with other individuals as a team. Teamwork is not a new concept. It appears to be an inate part of our personalities. Teamwork is the manifestation of unity. Unity is a formidable force.
Unity gives us the power of many. Just as the four oxen fended off the lion, when we encounter a harmful or deadly force, unity makes us more effective in our struggle for survival. Likewise, we must maintain that unity or suffer the fate of the oxen when they went their separate ways.
I can tap into the power of unity by remembering that I am part of a whole. I have learned that I can align myself with the positive forces of good. I can think at the level of the lone individual but act in concert with the forces of the whole.
This is where I meditate upon the wisdom of the ages. That remembering we are all interconnected. We cannot live unconnected with other people and the Universe. It is utterly impossible. Every aspect of our lives depends upon something or someone else. When we deeply contemplate this truth, we begin to tap into and direct the power.
The power is oneness. We can meditate upon oneness or unity and feel emotionally connected to everyone and everything. Because we are at one with everyone, we feel compelled to enhance and bring benefit to the whole. We understand that to harm another is to harm oneself; to help another is to help oneself. This wisdom is not the exclusive property of any particular, one religion or school of philosophy. This wisdom comes from a primal place in our minds. It belongs to all of us and can unite all of us.
The secret is to not only think about and contemplate unity; it is to convert those thoughts into action.
Seen in this light, unity will energize my community as we join hands with others and the world at large. We start at the personal and activate at the global.