November 24, 2017

Simcha Fisher: Love and diversity

PHOTO: Kayle Kaupanger

The other night, my husband and I shared a pizza as we recovered from yet another graduation. I made some passing remark about Trump’s policy change toward Cuba. It turns out my husband has (as usual) read up quite a bit more than I had on the topic, and he gave me a much better idea of the recent history of the relations between the US and Cuba. He is always reading, and is very resistant to black-and-white narratives about history or politics.

So we talked about Cuba for a while, and I wondered what effect the new policies would have on the people trying to run businesses in Cuba. Then I mentioned people running businesses in the US, and what struggles they face. Then I started fretting out loud about the struggle one of my kids was having with her friend. There had been some hurt feelings and possible misunderstandings over an invitation to a birthday party, and I wasn’t sure whether it would be helpful or even more damaging if I had a little chat with her friend’s mom.

We finished our beer and rose to leave, and suddenly I was consumed with shame. “I’m such a dummy,” I blurted out, halfway to tears. My poor husband stopped in his tracks, under the understandable impression that we had just eaten a pizza and drunk a beer and that was all that happened. I expounded: “You know all this stuff about politics and what’s going on in the world, and here I am babbling on and on about sleepovers and birthdays and little girl problems. I’m just so boring.”

My husband, God bless him, was aghast. “You’re not boring!” he said. “You connect with the world in a different way than I do. I want to know what you think about what’s going on. I need to know this stuff!”

Which I knew. I’m not dumb enough to actually believe I’m dumb for caring about my kids, or wanting to talk about them with their father. I don’t actually think strangers in Cuba should matter more to me than my own child does. And I actually do care and know and talk about lots of other things besides little kid problems and around-the-house problems and chats-with-other-mom problems. I was, however, exhausted (see: “yet another graduation,” above), and it was a little too easy to believe that everything is terrible, I’m stupid, and everyone thinks I’m useless.

I was glad for the little reminder that my husband doesn’t despise me for, as he said, connecting with the world in a different way than he does – and I was glad for the reminder not to despise myself for it, either. He wouldn’t phrase it this way, but my husband recognises and appreciates diversity when he sees it.

Ooh, diversity! It’s one of those words that we tend to brush aside impatiently, because we hear it so often – everywhere, from Corinthians (“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them …”) to sneaker ads. The word “diversity” has been overexposed and cheapened by people trying to make a buck; and it’s become shorthand for, “Everything is awesome, except probably Christians.”

But the true meaning of diversity is both sound and profound.

As my sister Devra Torres has said

we should embrace legitimate diversity.

And no, we shouldn’t be surprised to see lots of it in a world that emerged from the hand of an infinite and perfect God.

She says:

We embrace real diversity because it manifests the countless facets of the unbounded personal Being who we worship. This is an altogether different thing than heedlessly dabbling in different flavours of aesthetics or ethics or religion because we don’t believe any of them are worth arguing about (never mind killing or dying for, pace John Lennon).

She says that in graduate school at the International Academy of Philosophy, their motto was “Diligere veritatem omnem et in omnibus”:

Love all truth and love it in everything. We delighted to unearth grains of truth in even the unlikeliest places.

I was struck by that phrase, “We delighted.” That was what my husband conveyed to me outside the pizza parlour last week: Not only was he willing to put up with listening to me, but he delighted in it. He treasured it, because he loves me, and he loves what I love.

This is what is at the heart of true diversity, the kind of diversity that comes from the Holy Spirit: love. Love of each other, and love of God, from whom all goodness, truth, and beauty comes.

The best teachers I know have always been interested not only in what they have to say, but in what their students have to say. Why? Because they were open to loving their students, and they were also in love with the truth, hungry for more truth, delighting in uncovering new facets of truth that they had not seen before.

When we do not love each other, we cannot see anything valuable in how others connect with the world. All we can see is that so-and-so is not like us, and we know we are right, so … so-and-so must be useless. In a way, we make ourselves God: The source and summit of all there is to know and be.

But when we do love each other, we acknowledge our own incompleteness, and delight in the chance to find truth in someone who connects with the world in a different way from how we do. To love and delight in each other, especially in our differences, is to love and delight in God.

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