finding commonality


I’ve written before about how I see no inherent contradiction in being a political scientist who also teaches yoga. The undercurrent of my political science interests has always been an effort to understand people who are not like me. I’m fascinated by how others see the world differently than I do, and how that leads them to very different, sincerely held political beliefs.

A question I get frequently, especially in the era of Trump, is how I manage to keep my personal beliefs (mostly) mum from my students. Part of it stems from the curiosity I have worked to cultivate about others’ beliefs; part of it is a deep attachment to the notion that I should keep my views private; and part of it springs from this part of me I’ve only recently begun to notice.

It’s the same impulse that has led me to life coach training/certification/practice. It’s the impulse that drives me — that, if we’re honest, drives us all — to find commonality with others.

There’s no question that it’s deeply satisfying to feel you’re on a team, united to fight off some other team; our tribal heritage has rewarded survival of those who can bond with a small group that’s deeply committed to the group’s survival.

But it’s also satisfying to recognize the common threads of the human experience. And that’s where my mind has been over the last week.

As my spring semester classes ended today, I shared with my students a video that I absolutely love, and that my friend Amanda shared recently. When I watch — REALLY watch — this video, I always end up with a few tears escaping the corners of my eyes. What is so profoundly beautiful about this five minutes is that it shows how much the people of this world have in common. Regardless of the places or the circumstances of our lives, we all find joy in moving together and being silly. The same sort of sensation appears when a group of people make music together, when they perform a bit of theater, or when they collaborate on other projects that have some sort of performative aspect… which inevitably carries some aspects of vulnerability, and hence bonds us together.

Too much of this world focuses our attention on the ways we differ. We obsess over political disagreements, differences in lived experiences, and the endless competition to see who can be The Best at something.

Matt, with his inspiring videos, reminds us to spend a little time being attentive to the things we share, too.

As I wrapped up my final spring semester class today, having shown this video to my class, I said to them:

It has been my profound honor and privilege to get to spend this semester with you. Thank you.

I struggled not to burst into tears. I felt the swell of emotion, and in the faces of many of the students, I saw that sincerely felt emotion reflected.

And then one said, “Can we still buy a blue book at the bookstore next week?”

Rather than erupting into tears, the room filled with hearty laughter.

My heart is full. I feel so grateful to be connected to this community of students, faculty, and staff; I feel so grateful for my #TribeCLCC, for my #CYTT tribe, for my friends near and far, and all of the many things that are good.

May you, too, pause for a moment to remember all of the ways you’re connected to others, people with whom you share a common humanity. We are stronger together.

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