Seeking Oneness in a World of Difference: Engaging with Diversity
Dialogue, within and across cultures, can potentially inform and transform perspectives on the significant value of diversity. This paper explores the power of dialogue and its contribution to the co-creation of shared meaning and understanding in the world. To value diversity is to welcome and honour relationships of difference. By committing to this value, we step beyond basic awareness and trendy belief systems to engage with difference. Diversity is not valued without stepping beyond the familiar. Dialogue transcends notions of supreme individual significance and reconnects humankind to a greater community of like-minded souls. Humankind typically fears difference; silos of power evolve out of fear. Silos enclose and protect, (typically) serving as barriers to the experience of authentic dialogue. Silos go up — not out, contributing to a hierarchy of exclusion and fragmentation. Oppression of gender, race, age, sexuality, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and world-view are by-products of silos. Regardless of cultural differences, however, silos constructed by faulty belief systems and practices continue to have similar (global) — marginalizing effects. Adult educators, throughout the world, contribute significantly to turning silos sideways, to act as bridges, not barriers. Adult education has a rich history, testimony to the critical importance of honouring differences of beliefs, attitudes, practices and perspectives. The roots of adult education are cultivated beneath and beyond surface perceptions of difference. It is in the beneath and beyond that cultural differences are blurred; our similarities as human beings are made visible. When we transcend differences to explore similarities, we find safe space. In safe space, oneness resides. It takes courage, however, to step beyond to engage with difference. This requires surrendering beliefs, assumptions and attitudes that contribute to the formation of silos, of narrow perspectives that impede peripheral vision. Dialogue within and across cultures is critical for this paradigm shift.
Keywords: Dialogue, Adult Education, Diversity, Oneness, Relationships of Difference
Dr. Colleen Anne Kawalilak
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education Graduate Division of Educational Research Workplace and Adult Learning , University of Calgary