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Blog UF Mind #14: Othering

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

By Sabine Grunwald

“I am not in space and in time, nor do I think space and time; rather, I am of space and of time” (Merleau-Ponty, 1945/2012, p. 141). Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote this in his book Phenomenology of Perception, which was first published in 1945, the year WW II ended. What touched me in these words is that some people in contemporary America do not seem to live in the same space and time. Like parallel universes that subdivide space and time dimensions in which people do not listen, dialogue, talk or connect and touch in any way. It’s a cultural dichotomy that undergirds what is communicated or tweeted. This #othering is distancing and confrontational where “I” and “You” are perceived as other, not my tribe, not of the same roots, and with a total different vision for how American life should look like. In the should there is a righteous tone. It is painful to see these different political, racial, gender, sexual, and geographic identities roar loud. Many people think they are more right or better than others, and one’s thoughts and beliefs are the superior ones. Walls of thoughts that do not easily cross space and time domains.

But below these outside identities lingers something precious beneath that is pre-all of those identities. Something inherent in all of us that is “okay” shimmering through and not induced by culture, tribalistic political views or moral beliefs. Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams speaks to this in a radical open voice:

“There’s nothing wrong with any of us. And there’s nothing wrong with any of who we are or who we were born as and what skin and what gender what parts we have. That’s why I want to keep pointing out that there’s a construct happening. Just like ego is a construct. It’s something that’s out there. And then we have all of these challenges and heaps of suffering that are induced by how we relate to that ego, or that socially induced identity―that projection of ourselves” (Williams, Lama Owens, & Syedullah, 2016, p. 130).

The problem is not #Whiteness vs. #Blackness, not Rich vs. Poor, not Democrat vs. Republican, not urban vs. rural, not woman vs. man, not loving voice vs. angry voice, not heterosexual vs. queer. The problem is the way in which we relate to those identities. We may put up a rigid stone wall separating identities or let identities dissolve like water dissolves into porous sand. To see beneath polarized oppositions means to let go of the constructed overlay of “Look I am better and other than you”.

#Meditation #practices bring down the inward and outward walls we create. Instead we gradually tap into complete openness in our awareness. More awake and fully alive to our experiences. More accepting toward others because we know that in our inner core we are all the same. Painful crap is turned upside down and suddenly looks okay. This inherent something that is at one’s core of being unleashes to see with fresh eyes. This is when one is “I am of space and of time”.


Merleau-Ponty, M. (1945/2012). Phenomenology of perception. (D. A. Landes, Trans.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Williams, R. A. K., Lama Owens, & Syedullah, J. (2016). Radical dharma – Talking race, love, and liberation. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

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