- by Michael Enderby
Diversity is a State of Being
Noun: the state of being diverse.
Diversity in its literal meaning as listed above, shows how at its core it is a way of being. This is an interesting thing to consider as most times I would have thought it may mean an attitude, or the naming of the way we accept others. But at its core, diversity is a state of being. Think about that – a state of being describes a condition, a lens through which you see everything, a filter through which you interpret everything, a way of being. So, what exactly does that look like? How do you “be” diverse?
I would propose that it’s a most simple, yet devastatingly hard concept – the willingness to hold tension. What else could at its core really capture “the way” of being diverse. Diversity is the attitude, the character, the way of understanding that more than one truth exists. The mindset that is truly ok with others views, points of opinion – but goes further than that – embraces them as truth and learns from them. How could one do that except from a place where truths were held as equal?
Holding things in tension isn’t easy. It’s the space where you are pulled from every side. Every person, belief and idea often wishes to be at the centre, vying for attention and proclamation as “the one way” – and saying that each one has equal value and seeing each as valuable is incredibly straining and exhausting work.
Being at the centre or seeing only one way of understanding though – I would argue is almost just as hard – if not harder. To maintain the status quo, the prevailing thought as the only, or at least, as the prevailing preeminent thought is hard work. One has to put on and maintain blinkers to literally everything else in the world going on around them outside what they hold up. So much effort goes into rejecting, denying, belittlingly, demeaning and arguing against every other truth that, I would argue, one often loses sight completely of the original truth.
To illustrate my point, see the picture below. This was an activity we were taught as students when I studied youth work. The idea shows that having 4 people stand on opposing sides of each other, working together by applying equal tension on the string – results in the string being pulled enough to open up, go over the cup and then wrap around it. By applying careful attention and some tension, the cup can be lifted by the group – but only when working together and listening to each other.
Think about that for a second – the only way to lift the cup is all sides being in equal tension. That means all view points, all thoughts, all beliefs, seen and valued as equal, being held in an equal place of acceptance, before any work can be done. Otherwise, we’re stuck with some lousy string and a failed exercise.
Where we’re at now, vs where we need to go
Often we see or feel the need to be number 1. To be the loudest or to be in the centre so others can see and look to us for direction and guidance. Often this results in a clamouring and diving for the centre. The battle to hold the hill so to speak – and what unspeakable things have been done in the name of holding that hill…
To be able to exist together in harmony - to be able to live without the vying for power and the inevitable destruction and hurt that it brings is - to be ok with and to embrace the other, to love the different and to hold all truth outside of yourself in tension. Only then can we truly work together in new ways to pick up the cup and move it around. Only then can we truly work together as partners, brothers, sisters, friends, allies and start to deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world.
Michael Enderby is currently a Student Wellbeing Coordinator in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. He has a heart and passion for seeing people journey inward and fully realise their potential. He also enjoys the outdoors, deep chats with friends over great coffee and wine, or being active around the bay side suburb of his home in St Kilda, Melbourne.
See all previous articles by Michael Enderby