The value of separation is that, ironically, it allows us to engage. It forces us to. Without our internal separations, we’d have no opportunity to experience the full range of human life. Without our external separations, we have no reason and need to bridge the gaps and fill in the blanks they give us the chance to expand and grow. It’s when we imagine that we are not separate that problems happen. We’ve lived in a neighborhood for however long, and we think that means we know all about who’s who and what’s what, we never really get to know the people who live down the street. We assume that the years we put in at our employer means they’ll never want to get rid of us, so we never explore other options for work…. and then get set back by our assumptions that umpteen years of experience in our chosen field entitles us to a place that’s familiar and reliable. By operating always within zones of familiarity, where we feel connected and a part of something familiar and predictable, we never get outside our comfort zone and expand, growing into something new and different.
In every living moment, there is a constant dynamic interplay unfolding both within us and outside of us. It’s a non-stop dance of separation – joining – distancing – connecting – that animates our spirits and our lives. We need that dance of connection, that conflict of opposites. We are connection. And we are separation, as well. As nervous as it makes us, distance is every bit as important to us as our connectedness as our own personal integrity.
Growth comes from the interplay of our separated state and our connecting process. All life comes from that, in fact. Like pistons of an engine, or opposing polarities on a magnet, we can use those opposing forces to either drive our progress, or collide in a fiery crash. Too often, we assume that a fiery crash is inevitable. But I believe that’s because we misunderstand the nature of our separations, and we underestimate the importance of them to our well-being. Perhaps the real answer to resolving the conflicts between connection and unity is less about stopping ourselves from being separate and more about not stopping ourselves from being separate.