I was sitting in flower communion (a UU ceremony started in 1923 by Rev. Norbert Capek in Prague) listening to Rev. Patty Willis talk about the diversity of the flowers, and how they are made more beautiful by their differences. It is the bright, luminous, array of colors of flowers that make them shine and touch our hearts. They are a reflection of the incredible diversity in creation; the diversity necessary for life to continue. It is in that diversity that the incredible blessing of life, whatever its source, finds a robustness that allows it to survive and continue through the eons.
And then Rev. Patty said something that has bounced around in my mind every since. I do not recall the exact wording, but I do recall the spirit; “May we fiercely protect our diversity.”
Wow. I have long preached that tolerance of difference is not enough. That even acceptance of our differences, whether they be economic, racial, or theological is not enough. To build a world full of beauty and beloved community, we must welcome our differences. When confronted with a belief, a culture, an economic or racial context that we do not understand we must respond with an enthusiastic “I do not understand; teach me!” We must embrace that humility, that sacred joy found in learning and growth as we must seek to know one another in new ways. That will help us to build bridges. New relationships and sharing across the divides we find today.
That is what I believe; and what I try to practice – though I admit, it is a harder practice than I would have anticipated. Sometimes I find myself critical of that which is new; reducing it through critique into something that can fit into my existing paradigm, instead of stretching the paradigm to grow.
Then I hear this phrase, “May we fiercely protect our diversity.”
I felt a fire in the bones at those words. If creation is built such that diversity is where our ecosystems find strength. If diversity is what makes life bloom and grow. If diversity is what makes fields of many flowers breathtaking. Yes, if diversity is the way creation has grown, then that diversity is a gift that must be fiercely protected, welcomed, enveloped.
And so I challenge anyone who reads this as I would challenge myself. Every time that you encounter something that is new to you, before you start to critique it and take what you want. Welcome it as a student would welcome the gem of learning that they know will be on their final exam. Because it is on our collective final exam. Diversity is that which makes us robust, allows us to adapt, it is the way creation has grown about us, so that which is new to us, which we do not yet know, which we can learn from.
That is on our collective final exam. Seek it out. Protect it fiercely.