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Radical Inclusion Requires Radical Love

In these times of transformational shift, just about everyone is getting a little edgy with all the impending change. As traditional values evolve into postmodern values, we are witness to the social underpinnings of a new paradigm: competition gives way to cooperation, independence becomes interdependence, and exclusivity morphs into inclusion.

So much change creates tension and causes some people to revert back to staunchly defend their waning traditional values. Thus, we see a rise in fundamentalism in religion (assuming God is on one’s side does not justify ungodly behavior) and extremism in politics (shutting down the government to prove a political point is not an example of the leadership we need). It is high time that we all make a commitment to including in our realm of respect all those people that hold opposing views to our own. In order for us to move forward with genuine social transformation, let us take a deeper look at our own emerging values, and particularly what “inclusion” means in a transforming world.

It is so easy, and so traditionally valued, to dismiss extremists as not being part of our group of understanding. Indeed, Groucho Marx said, “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.” It is a natural human tendency to exclude undesirables from our circle of influence, even if that brings out the worst part of ourselves. As long as we think that way, however, there is nothing new or transformed about our consciousness. If we want to exclude others, we are just falling back on the age-old survival instincts of the animal essence of early humans, trying to keep potential “enemies” out of our midst.

If we are going to make meaningful progress towards peace and understanding, we need to learn to be more inclusive in dealing with people we tend to disagree with. Short of welcoming common criminals into our inner circle, we must seriously consider becoming radical enough to include all the ideological fringes in our discussions and potential friendships.

One of the first mentions of “radical inclusion” was put forth by Larry Harvey, the founder of the Burning Man festival, when he established it as the first of 10 principles for Burning Man in 2004. That principle stated that, “No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.”

Instead of going to so much trouble to insist that we are right, let us make ever more sincere efforts to listen deeply, hold multiple perspectives and allow a tolerance for a certain degree of ambiguity. The world is not a right-or-wrong enterprise, but rather a process composed of endless shades of grey. The exercise of compassion towards our perceived adversaries would go a long way to allowing us to learn more about life and love.

Marianne Williamson, citing the seminal spiritual text, A Course in Miracles, has said that there are only two basic emotions: love and fear. When we are excluding others, we are practicing fear. Thus, it is fairly easy to see that in order to practice radical inclusion, we are engaging to some degree in an expanded form of love.

But, is it really possible to love our enemies? When a Tibetan lama, after decades of imprisonment and torture in China, was asked the most difficult part of his ordeal, he replied that he was worried that he might lose compassion for the Chinese. Short of sainthood, what can we mere mortals do to widen the field of our own love to include others that are radically different from us? We can begin with rendering respect for consciousness.

In the Western world, we usually greet others with a simple, “Hello,” but in India, people often say “Namaste,” which roughly translates to “the light (of consciousness) in me honors the light (of consciousness) in you.” Although we might not be ready to start our next business meeting with a bow and the utterance of “Namaste,” if we consciously acknowledge in our own minds that we are honoring the light in others, that would go a long way toward generating an initial atmosphere of respect.

Moving on from there, we can take the supposed adversary’s stance and include it in our own understanding, rather than reject it. Evolution, as author Ken Wilber has so often said, moves forward by including and then transcending. Sophisticated organs like the human brain were developed by including everything that evolution ever conjured up and then taking it to a higher level. So the next time we meet an ideological opponent, we can use our postmodern brains to honor their presence, include their perspective and then take it to a higher level, to a place where we can practice something new: including them in our new notion of radical love.


Emanuel Kuntzelman is a lifelong seeker and advocate of environmental awareness and world peace. Founder of the nonprofit Greenheart International, he has helped thousands of participants build a foundation of cultural understanding across the globe, while promoting environmental initiatives, fair trade and social transformation. For more information, visit EmanuelKuntzelman.com.

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