We are used to thinking of connectedness and difference as opposites, as two ends of a polarity. A defining characteristic of culturally mature perspective is that it simultaneously increases our appreciation for connectedness and difference. We find this whenever we effectively bridge polarities and think in the needed more dynamic and complete systemic ways.
With Whole Person love we at once more fully experience our unique identities and gain the ability to be more authentically close. Bridge political left and political right and we gain the ability to more effectively collaborate and at once to appreciate the unique contributions that come with our particular political perspectives. (Political ideologies as traditionally experienced are more like two sides of the same coin than considered positions.) Bridge mind and body and we better appreciate how we functions as systemic wholes and also better recognize the unique role mind and body each play in that functioning.
How this might be the case brings us very close to a particularly provocative and pivotal question: How do we understand polarity at is most basic? In the end, polarity juxtaposes not two opposing forces, but unity on one hand and distinction on the other.
Attempts to reconcile this polarity lie the heart of philosophy—indeed at the heart of understanding itself. In its Modern Age version, it pits more rationalist/reductionist/positivist sorts on one hand against more romantic/idealist/holistic types on the other. Here is how Robert Pirsig put it in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (1974). Think of the world as a handful of sand arranged in separate piles. In Pirsig’s description, “classical understanding is concerned with the piles and the basis for sorting and relating them,” while “romantic understanding is directed toward the handful of sand before the sorting began.” Pirsig proposes that, “what has become urgently necessary is a way of looking at the world that does violence to neither of these two kinds of understanding and unites them into one.”
He is, of course, far from the first to pose this problem1—but the answer has seemed always just out of reach. That the best of contemporary understanding “bridges” polarities suggests we are getting closer at least in application, if not on a more abstract level. It follows from the concept of Cultural Maturity that in time we should also see approaches to understanding that succeed more conceptually—and at an overarching, all-encompassing scale.
As far as the apparent paradox that culturally mature understanding might simultaneously increase our appreciation for connectedness and difference, we see how this result follows explicitly from this appreciation for polarity at its most basic. Bridge unity and distinction and both connectedness and difference become newly highlighted.