We have different ideas about how things are and what needs to be done about it. “You like to sleep with the window open and I like it closed, so good-bye, good-bye, good-bye.” Who is right—who is wrong—about the window being open or closed? We are different to the core. If we were all perfectly aligned with our core, we would still be different. Oneness at the level of the heart is not agreement about the window being opened or closed.
I have a Tibetan singing bowl that I used, before I retired from the ministry, to begin and end ten minutes of silence in the early Sunday service. We had a Vietnamese Buddhist monk address the congregation at one point and I asked him to bless the bowl. He agreed to do so but said to me, “We Vietnamese Buddhists do not need this for meditation. It is a Tibetan tradition. We go straight into the meditative state.” There you are. Buddhist denominations.
Oneness is not agreement. Like minds like to sleep at different room temperatures and take different approaches to entering meditation. What are the things we all need to agree to? What are the things we can be free to do differently? It’s important to agree about what we can disagree about.
There are women who are pregnant and who, for various reasons, cannot carry their pregnancy to term. They need the option of having an abortion. There are gay people who are in loving, committed, monogamous relationships with each other. They need the option of marriage with full rights and privileges included. There are illegal immigrants in this country who need the option of legitimacy—perhaps “Economic Refugee” status—and ways of working out the details of their residency for the good of all concerned.
The rules we agree to honor and live by have to take our differences into account and cannot mandate bell ringing or window closing upon all without regard for individual needs and interests. We have found ways of making exceptions regarding how things are to be done for Amish and Mennonite communities. It is not asking too much to think that we might do the same thing for people of different persuasions regarding how things are and what needs to be done about it. The greater the number of differences we can allow and still live together in caring, respectful, ways is the chief characteristic of a place I could call home.