Although this quote has been bandied about so much that it has largely lost its meaning, it’s a valid question. What on earth is preventing us from coming together in a spirit of compromise to solve our problems? Are we really planets apart? Is there a “great divide” that is insurmountable? Are we really so intolerant of one another?
The media and our politicians would have us believe that there is a chasm between two “sides,” and that “their” side will save us, and the “other” side will doom us. It’s a ridiculous idea, but even ridiculous ideas can take root and color our perception if we allow them.
I know many people from all walks of life. Some are liberal; some are conservative. Some are wealthy; some are very poor. Some are religious; some are atheists; some are somewhere in between. I have come to know their opinions and beliefs, some of which are strongly held and often expressed. But the most important thing I have come to understand from all of them is that there are places where we all agree, even in the midst of profound disagreement. These intersections of agreement are where we must begin.
It may seem that there can be no intersection, no agreement with someone whose beliefs are on the opposite end of the spectrum from you. And it’s true that you may disagree about much, but it is also true that you can find the places where you do agree by simply shifting your perspective slightly. Reframe the question. Place yourself in their shoes. You may find that you are both seeking happiness, security, liberty, peace of mind, etc., but you have different ideas about how to get there. You may also find, with a little self-reflection, that the fears, control issues, worries, and the like that you see reflected in that person’s beliefs are also living in you—they just express themselves as different beliefs.
Of course, there is one place where we always intersect. It is the only place that matters. It is the place that Christ talked about. It is the place that Gandhi talked about. Martin Luther King, Jr. Countless masters, known and unknown, all understood the one place where we always intersect: Love. No matter how far apart we think we are, we intersect in unconditional, unchanging Love. Everything else is an illusion. In this Love, our opinions, our beliefs—no matter how firmly held and important we think they are—turn to dust. They do not matter.
As always, we have a choice. We can choose to stand on opposite street corners and hate and berate. Or we can meet in the middle of the intersection and work together in Love. As the angels said to us, “It takes a right wing and a left wing to fly.”