How can people of diverse backgrounds harmoniously live together? In the same way that people of similar backgrounds can harmoniously live together.
The obstacle to harmoniously living together isn’t the diverse backgrounds part. It is the living together part. When people of a similar background live together (in a family or a house or a city or a country), inevitably they too find reasons for disagreement, for disharmony.
If Christians and Muslims and Atheists aren’t able to live together in peace, it is no help to simply separate the groups. For a group consists only of Christians or Muslims or Atheists, inevitably what will surface are disagreements about what means to be Christian or Muslim or an Atheists.
Or an American or an Indian or Brazilian. Or a democrat or a republican or a communist.
The appeal of the bogeyman they, those others who are causing the disharmony (by they immigrants, or the alt right, or the Muslims, or the rich, or the communists, etc.) is that it covers over the internal disagreements of a group. In the face of the they, we and us acquires a shiny, harmonious facade. As in: we are alright, we are good to each other and get along and live in harmony; the trouble only begins with them, their arrival, their interference in our lives.
The bogeyman they gives a feeling of harmony in the us, that we are united, that we have gotten past our internal disagreements. It gives a soothing sense of harmony, of peaceful living within ourselves.
But even the feeling of harmony never lasts. Because it is not a harmony earned through honest toil, but is a simple, Band-Aid fix.
What is the honest toil?
To face up to the fact that harmoniously living together is not a matter of diverse or similar backgrounds. It is a matter of egos colliding. And egos collide as much within our family, neighbors, fellow republicans or democrats, fellow Christians or atheists, with people we call our own.
The ego is our sense of self defined in contrast with others. Ego is the sense of one’s uniqueness, all the big and little things about oneself, all the self-conceived good and bad things about oneself that make one feel different from others.
The ego feels good, strong and happy when those things seem good and strong; when those things are valued as good in the communal space of egos evaluating each other. And the ego feels sad, weak and unhappy when those things seem sad and weak; when those things are criticized and jeered at in the communal space of egos.
I have a Corvette. I have crooked teeth. I am good looking. I am poor. I went to a prestigious school. I have an illness.
In the ego consciousness most of one’s thoughts and feelings are these evaluations, of oneself and others. A constant comparing, how one’s self and one’s kin and social group, measure up. Trying to line up all the good things on one side, and put the bad things on the other side.
I have a brilliant idea. I am unpublished. I love this book. I dislike that author. I will help the world. I am failing in that task.
The root of social disharmony is this ego consciousness. Once the ego is accepted as real and as myself, as who I really and truly am, such that the ego’s constant evaluations mark who I really am, then it doesn’t matter who I live with, or who are my citizens. No matter who they are, even if they look and act and think like me, I and they will fight and argue.
For the ego loves to evaluate, oneself and others. Evaluating is its mode of being, it’s very existence. But the ego hates to be evaluated, by oneself and others. The ego bristles at any criticism, any judgment, even as it criticizes and judges others in the course of congratulating oneself.
The ego is never at peace with itself. It cannot be. It forever craves affirmation, and in the craving it creates distrust and chaos and pain, within itself and with others. And the ego covers all this over, as if it is nothing but the pure innocence of a child or a river in a meadow.
When the ego is accepted as real, as who I am, disharmony is inevitable.
But harmony is possible, because really the ego is not who I am. The ego is not the self, not myself. The ego is but the first stirrings of myself trying to know myself.
The ego is only an egg, which carries within itself who I really am. Who is truly me, I, myself. When the egg is hard and strong, and seems unbreakable, as if it is already identical with me, pain and strife follow.
But when the ego breaks, and a light shines forth that is myself without an other, where I am not defined in contrast with others, then true peace and harmony are realized.
The ego is but the shell which is carrying me in this life, in this body and this social circumstances. And from within the pure light of myself is breaking through, bit by bit. That is the natural progression: the ego shell breaks and the pure light shines through. Then the ego has done its job of letting the light shine into the world, and its purpose is fulfilled.
Not understanding this, the ego becomes alarmed at any break in its shell. It sees any break as something other egos can point at and criticize. So the ego tries to fix itself, repair the break, cover over the inner light from within breaking free.
But it is losing battle for the ego. It is the nature of the egg to ultimately break and for the life within to come out, unhindered, free and strong.
When all the ego-eggs break and hatch, humanity will live in harmony.