COLUMBIA — I recently participated in a discussion with several African-American armed service veterans.
We represented four generations and a number of wars or armed interactions by the U.S. Yet, we were amazed at the patterns of behavior and experiences we all shared.
The value of our interaction was not so much the knowledge shared as the unity generated through common discrimination across generations.
I have noticed similar reactions among cancer survivors — and in reunions of all kinds — as well as among those who have experienced the same places, times and people. We don’t even have to be at the same place at the same time.
Potential can unify us as much as reality. Sometimes it is simply the sharing of an idea or aspiration. Those supporting the election of President Barack Obama generated this type of unity. Think of the eye contact and the body language during a shared experience such as the victory celebration after the first Obama election.
I believe we are all a part of a circle of life that reconnects us when opportunities for unity present themselves. The wider the range of unity, the richer the experience.
There is nothing as rich as the development and remembrance of a shared experience. On the other hand, there is nothing as frustrating as a lack of unity in an experience or endeavor requiring it.
This is not to denigrate a personal experience or achievement. Still, many of my personal experiences or achievements could have been enhanced by unity with others.
I believe we were born to be a part of a unified ecosystem. Man has chosen to create divisions based on an array of manufactured differences and ranks. I breathe a sigh of welcome relief when circumstances encourage us to do what we were naturally created to do.
Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Nelson Mandela all recognized the value of human unity. The Bill Gates and Warren Buffett families use their philanthropies to help unify humankind.
We are all God's children. We are empowered by this knowledge and behave accordingly. We are diminished when we separate ourselves based upon some contrived system of human worth.
Many wars and other conflicts use unity to justify fighting, even though they often separate people rather than bind them together. Institutions also can separate us, even those that profess unity.
Let's seize each opportunity that presents itself to join together rather than to separate and categorize. We are all a part of the same circle of life.
William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU.