Living Together

(system) #1

While in San Diego recently, my husband and I spent an enjoyable morning photographing the wildlife in Point Loma. This image in particular has stuck with me—how these two very different creatures are able to coexist on the same stretch of rocks. In fact, entire communities of seals and cormorants, along with pelicans and seagulls, clearly return to the same rocks, day after day (the smell will tell you that if nothing else does!).

But they appear to do more than coexist; it might be my imagination, but I can easily see these two engaged in a conversation of sorts. Perhaps they do not understand each other’s language, but at some level there is acknowledgment and acceptance of the other. They have some major things in common after all; both fish for their food, and bask in the sun to warm up and dry off once their bellies are full.

We humans also have some important things in common, but in the rush to the top (whatever that might mean for each of us) we tend to forget how much we share. There are species-level urges, such as the need for food and shelter, to reproduce, and to raise our children to adulthood. There are social norms which we hold in common, ranging from the rules of the road to our intricate economic exchanges. There are also those ways of being together that each family and social group has created to help build cohesiveness, including the types of food we cook and the sports teams we follow.

And then there is our faith—an element that sometimes brings us together, but at other times tears us apart. Like our very basic needs for food and shelter, we need the divine—at a deep, primal level which appears to be coded into our very DNA. While our individual expressions of that desire for the divine often vary widely—and at their worst, come in overt conflict with each other—we all hold that desire in common, and when we can live together, different though we may be, our world is a fuller, richer place.

Where in your life are you called to live together with those who are different from you—humans and other creatures? How can you more intentionally seek for what we all hold in common, rather than those things which tear us apart? What does it mean for you, like the seals and cormorants, to truly share common ground—common rocks—with those who are different?

This article and image, by Shirin McArthur, originally appeared on her blog, "Prayerful Pondering." Shirin is a spiritual director and writer who enjoys weaving together spiritual wisdom with her work as a photographer and mosaic artist. She and her husband, Henry Hoffman, live in the mountains of southern New Mexico.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Thomas J Zwemer) #2

let us also remember that each one on that Rock is a predator. Each with it own set of victims. Tom Z

(le vieux) #3

Living together is one thing; agreement is another. There are some absolutes which make peaceful co-existence impossible in certain situations. Some groups believe that if you don’t convert to their version of religion, you should be killed in as gruesome a manner as possible. There is no room for compromise. That group must either be isolated from civilized society in some manner, or . . . or what?

The Bible says, “can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3.

Within the church, there is only so much room for compromise. There are certain absolutes on which compromise is impossible. While we don’t believe in isolating ourselves from those with whom we disagree, we are limited in what we can accomplish together, if the differences involve immoveable pillars of faith. It’s always been that way.

(Steve Mga) #4

Living Together has always been THE difficulty.
Our Worship has always been Cultural.
Our Worship has most of the time been Horizontal and not Vertical.
Our Worship has been mostly from our own Book of Common Prayer.
If we would give up our Culture when we enter collective Worship we would be more intune with each other.
If we would recognize we are worshiping God collectively, and He has not proscribed any one way in which to worship, we would be more intune with each other.
If we could enjoy each other’s Book of Common Prayer, we would be more intune with each other.
Worshiping God Collectively should NOT be based on ANY set of Doctrines. It should be based on the Fact that we are ALL believing in the Great God of Heaven, Higher Power even, the Creator of the Universe, the Redeemer of Mankind, and as such, we should be having a wonderful fellowship, a fun time together exhibiting our collective Love for His Majesty, our King, our Creator, our Savior, our Friend, our Brother and Father.
But this IS the sad part. We force persons who worship with us to present a check off list of THEIR doctrines, and if THEIR doctrines dont match ours, we dont want them to sit down with us to honor the Creator.
Living Together, Worshiping Together. Grand thought! But our own selfishness will not allow this to happen.

(Ole Edvin Utaker) #5

Living together meaningfully with differences, even “sacred” differences, has, in my view, to do with resisting the temptation to become engulfed in our own individual “situation”, and beeing able to recognize that there are a range of visons; multiple possible “horizons”. To have a “horizon”, in contrast to a “situation”, which tends to overvalue what is nearest to ourselves, means not to be limited, but to see beyond our own situated space. To have a horizon means to acknowledge the relative significance of this individual space. This opens up a larger space for a meaningful conversation, in contrast to the predatory nature of closed dead-end discussions, which in my view should be the beauty of Spectrum.

(Elaine Nelson) #6

We forget that all humans also live in a symbiotic relationship with other humans and with other forms of life. If we really thought and considered how true that “no man is an island” and without many others, we would not be able to survive, but in addition be able to enjoy life more fully.

How could we urbanites survive without the farmers? Or the tradesmen and the many workers who make life for us so much more pleasant? But instead, there seems to be a latent anger that often explodes without reason between men today; even seeking to destroy others without reason. Look to the birds and wildlife who have managed to coexist since the world began without seeking a way to destroy it all.

(George Tichy) #7

Parakeets are great companions to humans.
Among themselves, well…, when several females are nesting things can become nasty… Even having plenty of nests to choose from, they may fight for one almost to death. And the males, … well, for safety and health reasons, they better watch out and stay away from the conflict…

(Allen Shepherd) #8

Ah, George, does this mean we of the male persuasion need to steer clear of the lady, er, I mean female commentators on this site? Is this some kind of analogy from nature that we men need to take note of?? Is this some sort of sexist statement, from one who supports WO???. Or maybe it is a survival strategy, deeply imbedded deeply in our evolved psyches. Hmm…

(George Tichy) #9

If you want to make any analogy, consider that men should stay on the side when women are dealing with their reproductive functions and making decisions about their own lives and bodies.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #10

no man is an island, each is part of the main. Symbiosis should be the bottom line of community. but we still have locks on our doors. Tom z

(Allen Shepherd) #11

I was just wondering, my Dad told me that, ah, there had to be some sort of male, shall I say, input. But maybe he had it all wrong. He was wrong on some other things, but he did marry my Mom. I am grateful, that is, I mean, if he was write about the, ah, other issue. And this thing has nothing to do with male bodies??

And Tom has noticed those locks… What were they for, anyways? Something about symbiosis, and he even capitalized it! He might be onto something, sort of like my Dad… Always have respected that Tom.

(Elmer Cupino) #12

“Where in your life are you called to live together with those who are different from you…”

I have always been impressed that most of the issues can be resolved if “the whole process” were to be seen from a developmental standpoint. Different stages require different methods of understanding and resolution. Given time, if we were on a long journey but with the same destination, everyone should end up in the same location. The same goes for psychological development, we go through stages and the proof is evident in that one would get more consensus within horizontal generations than between longitudinal generations. Children will agree more between themselves. So will adolescents, early and later adults, and among geriatrics.

Those who fail to consider the “developmental” scheme would likely run into trouble and there would be no one to blame but themselves.

(Elaine Nelson) #13

It cannot be denied that the main common bond that binds Adventists together is the church doctrines. It originally became a separate religion because of its unusual doctrines when compared with all other Protestant denominations. And it is why people were, and are converted to Adventism. It was not because of their love of Christ, but the doctrines that separated them from all other churches; and it is still the bond that unites members, although for many it is simply a matter of birth.

(Bill Garber) #14


My sense of your observation is that when it comes to agreement, the path forward is to resolve all disagreements. Certainly the resolution of disagreement will leave nothing but agreement. Furthermore, compromise as a tool for finding agreement has limits. Indeed, with regard to some items there is no room for compromise. In such cases, for the good of the church it is better to separate over failure to compromise, than to give up one’s belief.

Am I understanding you sense of expected forks in the path to agreement?

(Steve Mga) #15

It is ALSO Church Doctrines which separate those born into the SDA Church by Church Members, when those born into it who are seen as less then Orthodox may be Shunned by those Members who perceive themselves as Orthodox or Ultra-Orthodox.
The Love of Jesus does not bind all together as one.

(le vieux) #16

Yeah, I guess that pretty much sums it up.

(Elmer Cupino) #17

"While we don’t believe in isolating ourselves from those with whom we disagree, we are limited in what we can accomplish together…”

It’s a choice. In this case, the “limitations” are self-induced and a form of psychological defense of which the limiting-factor is the magnitude of life experience. Even God, in His love for His creatures and His Son, compromised and allowed his Son to die for our salvation. If God Himself can allow such things to transpire, who are we to set limitations on ourselves? I believe this has got to be the greatest “cop-out” lame excuse.

Just wondering, do you have any children and have they attained adulthood? What was your parenting experience with them?

(Elmer Cupino) #18

How was your first day at the “Symposium?” Did they roll down the red carpet for you? LOL


(George Tichy) #19

Elaine is too quiet.
Maybe she was hijacked before the meetings started and quarantined? (Maybe the secret service at the Sympossum is working…)
Or maybe that lunch you will pay for was not that healthy?
Or did she switch camps?
Or maybe she just decided to do the right thing: Get the lunch anyway, send the bill to Elmer, but don’t waste time going to that place (Sympossum…) where people keep their heads in the sand (and probably have “sand wishes” about WO being stopped…)


(le vieux) #20

I’m not sure what you’re driving at. The Bible is clear that we cannot be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. And Paul is pretty plain about distancing oneself from church members who are antagonistic towards the truth. There are points of doctrine and belief, on which there can be no compromise. That’s not a cop-out; it’s reality. Would you prefer that we all submit to those with the strongest personalities, and just go along like Aaron did? Is “divisiveness” the unpardonable sin?

I’m not sure why my kids have to do with this, and this forum is probably not the right venue for discussing my parenting experience at length (if I say too much, George might try to psychoanalyze me :wink: ). They somehow survived my attempts at fatherhood, and are now adults. They were typical children, except that they were more challenging when they were young. As teenagers, they were pretty good kids. And they still speak to me–occasionally. :slight_smile: That’s the short story, and is probably all you need to know.