Let’s Turn this Argument Upside-Down

Separate, but not Separate


Just when you’re about to lose hope, those clever Buddhists help you see the light.

I listened to a talk about differences and separation, and it dawned on me what Buddhists have been suggesting all along:

There is no separation.

Granted: it’s a difficult concept to accept through a rationalist’s perspective.

One teacher, writing about separation, said, “A sea does not reject water, and therefore is able to bring about its vastness. A mountain does not reject soil, and therefore can bring about its height. An enlightened ruler does not despise ordinary people, and therefore can bring about a large populace.”

The writer says there’s no separation between the mountain and soil, the sea and water, the ruler and subjects.

So I thought about it this way:

What if we focused on our similarities rather than our differences?

Let’s turn this argument upside-down.

How are Christians similar to Muslims? What do Palestinians share with Israelis? What do Buddhists and Rohingyas hold in common?

When our U.S. policy-makers focus on differences among humans, they fail to see our similarities.

And our similarities are so robust, so salient and so present, that we have to work overtime to excavate the sludge that produces hate.

Let’s take it one step farther.

What if we focused on what we believe is the best outcome?

Think about the Syrians, Iranians and Burmese who have sought refuge in North America.

What outcome do they hope for?

Current refugees echo the hopes of four-hundred years of immigrants to lands Native Americans call home.

They were–and are–looking for a safe haven.

Aren’t we all?

 31 January 2017











About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, Buddhist, Dakota pipeline, democracy, hate speech, immigration, manifest destiny, refugees and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Let’s Turn this Argument Upside-Down

  1. Russ L says:

    I like the argument, But this does not account for some evil people in high places who only want to have the power to cause pain and suffering in others.


  2. Cynthia, tank you for this reminder. In a world where everything is reduced to binaries, especially winning and losing, and the essence becomes obscured, remembering to settle into shared space seems difficult and essential.


  3. Always appreciate your insight: thank you


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