Simultaneous Plurality

I have just spent an hour with a Westar Institute event on engaging others on hot-button topics. A point that kept returning was “simultaneous plurality.” Additional phrases that circle this mouthful are: 1) nothing happens in isolation and 2) there is no position without a location.

When identity politics is based on isolated positions separated from their values and become undebatable or able to be thought about in relation to multiple senses of reality, it isn’t easy to find any ground where we can stand together. A King-of-the-Hill approach leaves only one standing. For creatures that survive through social structures that shift over time to meet new conditions, this sort of extreme individualism is tantamount to genetic suicide or environmental murder.

One of the possible values of religion in such a polarized situation is a remembrance of its reliance upon trust (a better translation than “faith”). Trust has a communal/social component at its center. This can be seen when it is contrasted to viewing life on the basis of commodification or creedalism, that which can be owned and held over another.

An appreciation of provisional truth asks that its antecedents and consequences be part of the conversation. It is not sufficient to boil things down to a single sense of reality. When a professed truth tries to stand on its own, it wraps everything into a crisis point of a tribal identity only supportable by becoming self-referential to the point of constructing interlocking conspiracies that deny everything but itself.

Our current tendency is to divide along the lines of those who see eternal doubt about everything and those convicted that certainty requires uniformity. Symbolic language becomes weaponized, and a war of words directly leads to a battle of bodies seeking to claim the center of nothing but itself.

There is no final resting spot in a system of dynamic relationships. So, we are called to the difficult work of 1) not making stuff up and 2) trusting beyond our self-referential self.

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