Friday Philosophy: Diversity

We read.  We absorb.  We often find thoughts expressed in much better ways than we could ever express them ourselves.  Sometimes we seek to share those thoughts, hoping against hope that someone else will see what we see, hear what we hear, feel what we feel.

I’ve been spending a long time reading/reading about William Stafford, a neighbor of days gone by, trying to absorb perhaps what could have been in another happentrack.

_ # ^ &  _ # ^ &  _ # ^ &  _

The Locomotive’s engineer cast hir mind outwards and sought awareness.  The WeaveMothers, those collective consciousnesses which had distilled from the collective knowledge of all creatures in the Greataway were tending their flocks and new happentracks were condensing into existence.  SpaceTime expanded.  There were new choices for the path of the train to take.

The Storyteller plucked a poem from the past.  The Listener perked up.  The Passenger slept.


Every day people around me reveal that they live in

a country that shocks my soul.  Words that they

speak suddenly open infinity between us.

Books or friends or conduct they embrace

recede to a pinpoint on my screen and go out.

It is my habit never to hurt these people

around me.  Their offenses against my taste, my moral

sense–my religion–can’t be allowed to darken

their lives or our joint residence in our time.

In separate rooms we are traveling our lives.

–William Stafford, Daily Writing, 2 June 1993

_ # ^ &  _ # ^ &  _ # ^ &  _

The WeaveMothers were one, yet they were also several.  The collective rippled the fabric towards the Locomotive.  They would have smiled if they knew how.

Learning to Smile was added to the To Do List.

Concentration returned to the brighter spot.  WeaveMother births were exceedingly rare.  There were too many stillborn, too many happentracks that withered and died.

The WeaveMothers prepared a space for a possible new cell.

_ # ^ &  _ # ^ &  _ # ^ &  _

I know how the argument goes.  It’s not like I haven’t hear it ten or twenty or a thousand times.  Every member of a suspect group has heard it.

If humans could just learn to make some traits we have invisible, in whatever way they need to be, we would have no maltreatment based on someone having (or not having) that trait.

It sounds quite reasonable.  Completely impossible, but quite reasonable.

I cannot not see what I see.  I cannot not hear what I hear.  I cannot not know the knowledge that I have.

But recognizing that people have different skin colors doesn’t make a person a racist, no matter how much people who voice that above argument think it does.  Being able to recognize someone’s ethnicity from hearing the language/accent that they are speaking is not a bad thing.  Having knowledge of other religions and cultural customs is, in fact, very beneficial to a healthy society.

It’s called diversity.  We are all different.  And that’s good thing.  Who knew?

The idea should be that we celebrate our differences.  I celebrate yours along with you.  You celebrate mine along with me.

Guess what.  That takes effort.  It takes living in each moment of our lives with an awareness of ourselves, of those around us, and our interactions with those others.  It cannot benefit any interaction with others to be completely blind to the otherness each of us feels.

I become friends with the Thai lady who owns the restaurant next door, the Filipino couple who work as cashiers at the supermarket, and the Indian couple who own the Krogers.  I teach inner-city younger people of all sorts of hues, ethnicities, religions, and cultural variations here in New Jersey.  The number one thing we all learn is to co-exist.  That’s part of our Mission Statement here at Bloomfield College.  It’s why I teach here.

…The mission of Bloomfield College is: to prepare students to attain academic, personal and professional excellence in a multicultural and global society.

The College is committed to enabling students, particularly those who have traditionally been excluded from higher education, to realize their intellectual and personal goals…

We recognize our differences.  And we celebrate those differences as well as our similarities.  We develop what some of us call empathy.

I fail to understand why anyone should think it’s that difficult to understand.

I choose my words carefully.  The “should” in the sentence above is there for a reason.  I don’t think we should find it difficult.  It is with tremendous amounts of pain that I recognize that so many people do.  I grieve for our species.

Perhaps a part of me dies every time I hear it voiced that this is inevitable.  How does one change the direction of inevitable?

I am intensely aware that not everyone thinks or feels or believes what I do.  We are who we are.

We are one.  And we are several.

We are a community of individuals as well as a communal organism.


Cellular Diversity


we form and transform

the words and thoughts

building an understanding

a commonality

cells aligning

and recombining

into a whole

greater than

the union

of its parts

Not by becoming


but through sampling

our differences

does this creature

avoid being stillborn

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–June 20, 2008

I would hope that before any of us starts commenting upon the life of another, we would make the effort to learn who that other person is.  Take some time.  Read some comments, maybe an essay or two.  Walk a mile or so inside someone else’s brain.

Make an effort to learn that which each of us brings to the party.  Make an effort to dismantle the barriers that separate us as individuals so that the organism can thrive.

If we can extend that to our personal lives, maybe the world has a chance of becoming a better place.

Just a thought.

With love from me to you.

_ # ^ &  _ # ^ &  _ # ^ &  _

And with hope this birth is not still, thought the collectiveness that was the WeaveMothers.  They were one.  But perhaps they were not complete.  And they were several.  But perhaps they were not enough.

_ # ^ &  _ # ^ &  _ # ^ &  _

The StoryTeller tossed another old poem at the Engineer.

Cliff Dweller

You could say I live on Acoma, steep

drop all around.  Sometimes my foot

dips, and I feel that giddy height.

Often my words drop into nothing:

no answer comes back: a pale

whisper reaches up from the blue distance.

Relatives, friends who walked beside me–

I look around and they are gone.  They don’t

live on this rock any more.

Stories tell of a place where the land goes on,

firm all around.  Your steps can be sure.

In my dreams I parachute into that land.

I wake up.  A breeze is blowing the curtain.

I send out a few words toward the edge.  Sometimes

they bring back a friend.  Sometimes–the blue whisper.

–William Stafford

The Locomotive switched happentracks.


Skip to comment form

    • Robyn on June 21, 2008 at 00:02

    • Robyn on June 21, 2008 at 00:33

    …but there is a “me” in meta.

    • RiaD on June 21, 2008 at 00:46

    They would have smiled if they knew how.

    Learning to Smile was added to the To Do List.

    sometimes you floor me….(^.^)

    if only

    The idea should be that we celebrate our differences.  I celebrate yours along with you.  You celebrate mine along with me.

    we can come together over the greatest common denominator~ we’re all human…then learn from each other as we share our differences.

    after all who would want a world where everyone was the same??

    i luurve this series robyn. sometimes i don’t comment…but i always read & enjoy immensely


  1. the diversity of communities over the last few weeks.  We’ve been dealing with a historic flood, and the response to it (now that I can pause a bit and think about it) was remarkable.

    People from all walks of life volunteered in huge numbers to fill sandbags.  Some were faced with imminent threats to their own homes and businesses.  But many were not, and yet they kept coming to help others in their community.  24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Some who couldn’t help with sandbags would bring food, or drinks, or towels, or shovels…whatever they could.  

    Across Iowa we filled and placed over 5 million sandbags.  Sometimes it worked.  Many other times it didn’t.  It’s hard to keep your spirits up after working so hard, and then see it washed away in a few minutes.  But the volunteers kept coming back.

    I’m very proud of my fellow Iowans, and others around the Midwest, for coming together to help both friends and total strangers.  It’s a lot easier to identify with the diversity of your neighbors when you’ve stood together with your backs against the wall.

  2. at work. We had to write interesting facts about ourselves on big pieces of paper scattered throughout the class. Just to be obnoxious on the religion paper I wrote “atheist” because I live in the south. Immediately everybody honed in on that and started blathering about how horrible it was. I pointed out that they had all demonstrated why they needed to be in diversity class and that was why I wrote that. The instructor just sat there while I calmly defended myself. I argued that a major component of trying to understand diversity was that people reacted when they were fearful by bullying others. Then I critiqued the instructor for not trying to intervene on my behalf. He mumbled something about me being able to “handle” myself.

    Later the instructor said that “in the past” affirmative action had been used unfairly and that caused resentment. I challenged him again and said well why assume a woman or person of color or a religious or sexual minority got a job because of affirmative action, why not use the starting point of assuming they were qualified and met the job requirements.

    I think it would be fair to say I made myself wildly unpopular with the other participants and the instructor.

    • Alma on June 21, 2008 at 04:09

    I think this is really beautiful:

    Not by becoming


    but through sampling

    our differences

    does this creature

    avoid being stillborn

    Good job my friend  🙂

    • Robyn on June 21, 2008 at 05:36

    …this piece are expected to be conspicuous by their absence.

    And as usual, all I can do is hold onto the flimsy hope that they might have read this anyway.

    The blue whisper can attend even if the words bring back some friends.

    • Robyn on June 22, 2008 at 01:35

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