Dear Readers: Disagreement is an important reality of life for humans. Since developing the ability for advanced cognitive processing, we’ve rarely completely agreed on anything. Possibly the directions of up and down, and maybe that gravity exists, but beyond that, a difference of opinion is the norm. And that’s fine, good, and necessary as long as disagreement doesn’t degenerate into violence. The ability to think abstractly sets humans apart from other animals, but sadly, so does our tendency for violence in the name of an idea, desire, or belief.
The deadly events in Charlottesville last weekend highlighted this unfortunate aspect of human behavior. What happened there was an attempt to defy the most American of premises: That all people are created equal and are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Class and economic distinctions may come and go, but the supremacy of one race over another flies in the face of our country’s founding documents. It also ignores the value of diversity. As humans, we can be equal, but different, and it’s those differences that give us strength as a people. While the concept of diversity clearly hasn’t yet found universal acceptance, to those who say it’s impossible to embrace diversity, I would like to offer the perfect example of why diversity is not only possible, but is absolutely necessary.
For over three thousand years, the Five Elements model has taught that any whole can be separated into five equal, but very different, parts. In the model, these five parts are represented by Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal. Further, in the model, the stability of the whole depends solely on the health and balance of these five interrelated parts. No single element is more important than the others; all five are needed. In fact, the ongoing interaction of the five not only guarantees that the whole will flourish, it also keeps each of the individual elements balanced and strong within themselves. In truth, the Five Elements model is the perfect representation of the necessity of diversity.
You might say that the Five Elements model is just that, a mere model – it isn’t real life. But what is a model other than a theoretical concept that attempts to explain real life? We use the accepted model of the Earth orbiting the sun to explain the observed fact that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. And while some might say that Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal are not people, in the whole we call humanity, we do see five distinct personalities that correspond to each of the elements. And the beauty of the model is that when any one of the elements is out of balance (either with too little or too much presence), it is automatically helped by one of the other elements. The system contains within itself all that is needed to maintain optimal functioning.
Humans are the same. As a group, if we try, we can bring what is needed for all of us to be happy and healthy. But as the Five Elements model illustrates, it will take the diversity that a large group of people in Charlottesville seeks to deny. I believe that the founders of the Untied States were correct: all people are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But they forgot to add that none of us will be able to maintain life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness if all of us aren’t granted life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Ultimately, as the Five Elements model shows, it’s our diversity that will guarantee our survival as a species on our beautiful Earth. May we all work toward that end.