Provision #416: Embrace Diversity

Laser Provision

For many people, spiritual wellness sounds like a call to arms. They want to share their truth with the world in the hope that one day everyone might see things their way. For all its enthusiasm, such an approach fails to appreciate the richness of what’s happening in our world today. Only by embracing diversity will we be able to move ourselves forward with a compass of goodness, peace, and joy.

LifeTrek Provision

Perhaps you have heard the story of the City Mouse and the Country Mouse. Being cousins, the Country Mouse decided to pay the City Mouse a visit. The journey to the city was harrowing enough, while the comings and goings of the city proved to be quite overwhelming.

At one point, the two mice were chased down and cornered in a dark hole by a ferocious cat. The cat perched itself in front of the hole, occasionally reaching in and swiping around with its paw, in anticipation of the dinner soon to follow. Seeing no escape, the City Mouse took a deep breath and proceeded to bark loudly, like a dog.

The startled cat jumped back, allowing the City Mouse and the Country Mouse to get away with their lives. Proclaiming that the city was obviously no place for a mouse to live, the Country Mouse then inquired as to how the City Mouse learned that little trick. “In the city,” came the reply, “it helps to be bilingual.”

So it does! Whether we live in the city or the country, the more comfortable and fluent we become with diversity the better off we will be. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood and predicted this phenomenon in his last book, written in 1967, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community:

“Some years ago a famous novelist died,” he wrote to lead off the last chapter. “Among his papers was found a list of suggested plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: ‘A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together.’ This is the great new problem of humankind.”

“We have inherited a large house, a great ‘world house’ in which we have to live together • black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu • a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.”

“All inhabitants of the globe are now neighbors. This world-wide neighborhood has been brought into being largely as a result of the modern scientific and technological revolutions. The world today is vastly different from the world of just one hundred years ago. A century ago Thomas Edison had not yet invented the incandescent lamp … the Wright brothers had not yet invented that fascinating mechanical bird that would spread its gigantic wings across the skies … and Einstein had not yet posited the theory of relativity.”

“Human beings, searching a century ago as now for better understanding, had no television, no radios, no telephones, and no motion pictures through which to communicate. Medical science had not yet discovered the wonder drugs to end many dread plagues and diseases. Military men had not yet developed the terrifying weapons of warfare that we know today. Engineers were not yet building skyscrapers to kiss the stars and gargantuan bridges to span the waters. Science had not yet peered into the unfathomable ranges of interstellar space, nor had it penetrated oceanic depths.”

As if he knew the Internet was coming, King concludes, “The years ahead will see a continuation of the same dramatic developments.” So, today, we find ourselves coaching people around the globe. In addition to clients in at least 18 states, we are currently working with clients in Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Australia, and Vietnam. All this happens in an instant, at no extra expense beyond that of a high-speed Internet connection. Email, instant messages, and voice-over-Internet-protocol enable us to communicate as though we were sitting together in the same room.

It is no exaggeration to say that the business of LifeTrek Coaching International would not have been possible even 10 years ago, let alone in the time of Martin Luther King, Jr. People would never have been able to find us, let alone to work with us as they do now. The predicted globalization of our economy, through advances in communication and transportation, has become a reality from which there is no turning back. The “world house” is here to stay.

I saw this up close and personal with the first corporate consulting and coaching contract we ever secured for LifeTrek Coaching International, back in 1999. This was the era of Y2K fever, and LifeTrek was retained by a large corporation to assist with team building and communication as they went through a massive Information Technology implementation.

Having spent the first 20-years of my career as the administrative and spiritual leader of diversity-friendly churches, I was struck by how much more diversity there was on the floors of this corporation. And they weren’t even striving for diversity! When it came to business, only one thing mattered: did you have skill to get the job done? If you had the skill, and the skill was needed, you could be in India one day and in Ohio the next.

Ken Wilber, in his book A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science, and Spirituality, notes just how unique this is in the history of the world. “We live in an extraordinary time: all of the world’s cultures, past and present, are to some degree available to us, either in historical records or as living entities. In the history of the planet Earth, this has never happened before.”

“It seems hard to imagine, but for humanity’s entire stay on this planet • for some million years up to the present • a person was born into a culture that knew virtually nothing about any other. You were, for example, born a Chinese, raised a Chinese, married a Chinese, and followed a Chinese religion • often living in the same hut your entire life, on a spot of land your ancestors settled for centuries.”

Not so any more. We are being linked and thrown together, across every imaginable barrier, into a global village. But that doesn’t mean we know how to get along with each other. As evidenced by the ever-increasing spiral of violence, the evolution of our social, moral, spiritual, and intellectual systems have not kept pace with the evolution of our business, technology, economic, and information systems.

In fact, we still find people • many people • railing against diversity as though it were an evil thing to be feared, suppressed, and stuffed back into the box of pre-modern times. Alternative families, for example, be they interracial, intercultural, interreligious, or anything different than a traditional, monocultural expression of mom, dad, and the kids, continue to make many people uncomfortable and are frequent fodder for political squabbles.

Think you are free of bias when it comes to ethnic and racial groups, religious groups, sexual orientation, gender, stereotypes of race and crime, gender and science, ethnic-national links, political issues, entertainers, or even sports teams and pets? Then perhaps it’s time to think again. Psychologists at Harvard, the University of Virginia, and the University of Washington have created an online tool with over 90 different assessments to measure unconscious bias Click. Most people who take one or more of the assessments find that we still have a long way to go to embrace diversity.

But the cat is out of the bag and there’s no turning back. A revolution has taken place that has altered the course of human history, and we would do well to neither resist nor to sleep through it entirely. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words are as prescient today as they were almost 40 years ago:

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. But today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant, and to face the challenge of change.”

“The large house in which we live demands that we transform this world-wide neighborhood into a world-wide brotherhood (and sisterhood). Together we must learn to live as brothers (and sisters) or together we will be forced to perish as fools.”

King and Wilber both acknowledge that we live in two realms, the internal and the external. The challenge, now that the external world has changed so much, is for the internal world of our social, moral, spiritual, and intellectual systems to right itself with a compass of caring, respect, tolerance, justice, and love. These are the things that King lived and died for. And these are things that Wilber writes about in terms of “second-tier thinking.”

“First-tier thinking holds that its worldview is the correct or best perspective. It reacts negatively if challenged; it lashes out, using its own tools, whenever it is threatened. … All of that begins to change with second-tier thinking. Because second-tier consciousness is fully aware of the interior stages of development • even if it cannot articulate them in a technical fashion • it steps back and grasps the big picture, and thus second-tier thinking appreciates the necessary role that all the various stages of development play.”

From this point of view, we can embrace diversity even to the point of embracing those who reject diversity. They too have a part to play in the march of history, even if they are not where history is going. Wilber speaks of this in terms of the shift from pluralism to integralism, with the latter being a much more mature and universal expression of the former.

The sooner we make that shift to the integral vision of second-tier thinking, the sooner we embrace diversity for one and all, the sooner we will grow and evolve into not only higher levels of consciousness but also of social organization. The shift is that important. When it comes to spiritual wellness, there is no place for tribalism. There is rather the call for integral practices that exercise body, mind, soul, and spirit on every level (self, culture, and nature).

What are these integral practices? They involve physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual regimens, followed by periods of rest and recovery, such as those described in our weekly Wellness Pathways Click. They include individual as well as collective efforts. They pay attention to self, culture, and nature. Wilber calls them Integral Transformative Practices because they hold out the promise of transformation for us all.
Coaching Inquiries: Do you embrace diversity? How far do you take that? Where do you draw the line? Are there ways you could draw the circle wider? What would you lose if you did? What would you gain? How could your presence and practices make the world a better place to be? 

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..

Thanks for sharing your message from Evan’s and Michelle’s wedding. I enjoyed that!

I just finished reading your Provision, Relationship Wisdom. My wife and I have only been married for 8 yrs. But your piece was a great reminder of what will make a marriage work. Far too often we get caught up in career, kids, and paying the bills that we can loose sight of what should be central, our marriage relationship. In a world that champions individuality over unity it is great to be reminded that our relationships are the best source of joy and fulfillment. Thank you.

Thanks for sharing your Relationship Wisdom. I think you covered it all very well. My marriage did not work out and many of the points that you mentioned were lacking or not practiced and certainly could have led to the divorce. If I ever venture into a marriage relationship again I will be sure to have your article handy or at least a laminated pocket card with the 8 points. Wouldn’t it be great to have a needlepoint sampler with the 8 points in the kitchen right next to the one that says God bless our home. A constant reminder of this relationship.

PS • I really liked how you engaged all the wedding guests and the bride and groom in that memorable blowing of a kiss. You are right that it is something that will never be forgotten.

Beautiful Provision! I almost feel like I was at the wedding! You never cease to amaze me with your words of wisdom! I appreciate you sharing the advice you gave Evan and Michelle. I truly believe these are the components that create a successful marriage. The fact that Evan and Michelle have these words to help •build’ their foundation gives them a •running start’ in following the wonderful example you and your wife have set. What a perfect Provision to share with the rest of us • we should all be reminded daily of what marriage really is.

Thanks for the reminders about what makes a good marriage. And the blow a kiss opening was great! I always enjoy your newsletters even if I don’t often say so. They are thought provoking, informative, inspiring, and relevant. 

I have a task in my planner to look at the articles in the 1-19-03 LifeTrek Provisions. Unfortunately, your site has changed and I cannot find the article using that date. I don’t know what the subject was, but it was important enough for me to set a reminder to look at it when the time was right.

Well, the time is now right because I have finally retired from my former day job and can devote my time to getting a coaching practice off the ground. If you can’t make it easy for me, I’ll do it the hard way (look at everything in the archives). Who knows what I’ll find if I do it the hard way? 

By the way, kudos on the new look to your web site. It is not only improved in appearance (it has always been professionally attractive), it is even more functional, at least to this 61-year old semi-techie. (Ed. Note: The Provision you want, Get Happy, can be found on our website by going /provisions/YYYYMMDD.htm is our standard convention. Enjoy!)  

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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