This article is a summarised version of the book EENHIED by Gerrit De Moor. The book is only in Dutch; however, you can contact the author for more information.
Oneness, or unity, is what makes us human.
Hominids—the first human beings—evolved because they were able to connect in social groups on an emotional level. But modern humans have lost a huge part of our natural instincts. We no longer live in equilibrium with nature, and we risk losing the emotional bonds that make us human.
Contemporary human life seems to be fragmented in so many directions. We have leisure time, work or school time, family time, hobby time, and “me” time. We move quickly to different obligations across continents. We have built technical equipment that makes the entire world our village.
This seems so strange in contrast to the way humans originally lived with a small group in a relatively small territory.
This ongoing fragmentation of our united humanity and habitats has harmful effects, and the people who suffer most are our children. It is time that we choose to lead our children—and ourselves—back to our roots.
How do we work towards unity with others and our environment?
This article contains:
How Can We Define Unity?
Each person has a profound need to belong to a group of other people. But oneness is more than just being connected to other people. It also is the urge to relate yourself to the environment in which you were born and raised.
We can define unity as the development of the self within the community of mankind. When bringing this unity into an ethical framework, it can be considered a virtue.
There are many definitions of the word “virtue.” Aristotle, for one, saw virtues as a sign of moral excellence.
Striving for moral excellence requires thoughtfulness and a drive for individual development combined with social involvement. Striving for such goals is definitely needed in this era of individualism, extremism, and egotism.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
Teaching Our Children The 5 Virtues of Unity
First of all, we need to bring more unity in parenting and education. Families and schools too often look like two different worlds, each with their own goals and methods.
This shouldn’t be the case because both have the same goal: to provide the optimal conditions for children to develop their talents and characteristics. Furthermore, we can also come up with supporting virtues to help children understand more about unity.
The main virtue in the community of mankind is, undoubtedly, love. “Love” has several definitions, but as an Aristotelian virtue, it is the acceptance, even appreciation, of differences between people.
Love is a powerful emotion that binds us to other people.
The first human beings showed love for the small communities in which they lived, but as we have developed to live in a globalized world, we should accept and appreciate all people who enter into our lives.
There is an important lesson to learn from caring for the environment. When our ancestors lived in a limited area, they honored and cared about wildlife, feared the power of lightning and thunder, and worshipped the abundance energy of the sun.
Nowadays, we live in a vast environment–not only on earth, since outer space has also become part of our territory. Nevertheless, we should honor and care for all of the space we inhabit, and we need to teach our children the same lesson.
Time is a concept created by humans. We have divided a continuous cycle into segments ranging from seconds to centuries in order to get a grip on vastly abstract phenomena. Living in unity with time means that we need to learn from history to provide for the present. The use of our past to inform our future is most practical when we share and practice wisdom.
This can be explained with the example of science. Science leads to knowledge, but wisdom helps us to distinguish whether we should bring knowledge into practice or just leave it as knowledge.
4) Acceptance of the Transcendent Reality
This is a true acceptance of the fact that not everything is controllable, understandable or predictable, which is difficult to fully understand when we are being drenched in our daily reality. Experiencing the transcendent reality helps us to understand that we belong to the whole.
At this point, it might look like we are fully predestined and predetermined because of the millennia of mankind’s history and the vastness of time and space within a transcendent reality.
Nevertheless, people differ in what characterizes them and what moves them. We all have our personal goals and dreams. So, the goal in life for each of us is to find ourselves and develop our potential. The main virtue to make this possible is self-respect.
7 Ways to Teach Your Kids the 5 Virtues of Unity
It might look hard and seem abstract, but there are a lot of daily activities that can lead to and enhance one’s sense of unity. Because we want to teach our children about the unity of all of these factors, it would not make sense to plan activities that lead to learning just one of these elements.
All of the activities should lead to the development of several of these elements at the same time. Of course, this list isn’t complete, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
In Dutch, my native language, there is a proverb that says:
“Words awake, examples are imitated.”
What this means is that preaching will have less of an effect on children’s thinking and learning than their own actions. Children learn without being taught; they “steal with their eyes.”
Our daily behaviors and ways of living will serve as models for the next generation, whether we want our children to learn from them or not.
There are many kinds of storytelling: family stories, legends, fairy tales, movies, quotes, etc. All these ways of storytelling can help to share knowledge and wisdom between generations. They also bring people together and reinforce relationships.
Traveling from the perspective of unity has little to do with tourism. It means that we leave our daily routines to broaden our horizons. It involves meeting new people in our daily lives and trying to understand and accept their ways of life. It is crossing your own borders and stepping into other worlds.
Traveling broadens our perspectives; it teaches us to see differences as an asset instead of a problem. Traveling leads us across the borders of our limited communities. It shows us things that go beyond our knowledge and invites us to share our lives with people we meet along the way.
4) Experiencing Nature
We are a part of nature, and we are, ourselves, nature. That is why natural experiences affect us in such a profound way and why we should give our children opportunities to experience earth, water, wind, and fire.
Walking barefoot on wet grass, in the sand, and on pebbles are necessary childhood experiences. Being outside when it’s raining and the wind is blowing is the best way to be overwhelmed by natural elements. And when staring into the flames of a bonfire, a child learns to relax.
Just like meeting people while traveling, why not meet different animals and plants while exploring the elements. We can also bring animals and plants in our daily routines with pets and indoor or outdoor plants. We can even grow our own vegetables, which ties into the next activity.
Cooking with homegrown vegetables teaches children the circle of life and the cycle of the seasons. And when we bring that food to the table and enjoy a meal together, our children learn unity as a habitual experience.
Celebrations are about gathering and bringing honor to what unites us. We can celebrate important events in our lives and have sentimental annual rituals. Holidays, literally meaning “holy days,” by definition provide unity. Holidays lead us to gather together as a community, connect with time and space, and honor what transcends us.
Rites, rituals, and symbols help us to give words to what is ineffable and give shape to the abstract. Often, pictures are taken while celebrating, and these add to the arts that play an important role in uniting people, time, space, and transcendent reality.
7) Creating Art
I am not talking about the maestros and Michelangelos of the world. Humans have always felt compelled to create images of their impressions of the world with symbolic forms and colors: drawings, stylized figures, images, forms, poetry, music, pictures, etc.
There’s a reason many kids grab crayons and scribble on carpets with them.
We shouldn’t limit our children with materials, creative tasks, or creative ways. For example, modeling how we creatively give form to our impressionsand feelings stimulates our children to develop personal taste and interests.
Creativity is a process through the imagination of one’s perceived reality. It’s very personal, so when we share our personal impressions of the world with each other—via art—we trust each other more and bond.
In this way, art supports personal development in the holistic context of community, space, time, and transcendence.
History shows us that we have lost a great deal of our connection to each other, time, and space. This ongoing process has been speeding up the last few decades with advancements in technology and globalization.
The time has come to refocus on unity, and we, as adults, teachers, and parents of the next generation, have a huge responsibility to model moral excellence for our children and to give as many opportunities as possible to experience the virtues of unity and transcendence.
If our offspring grow up with increased awareness of the importance of unity, we can turn the tide and create a new generation filled with love, connection, care, wisdom, and self-respect.
How important is the concept of unity to you? Have you ever taught the concept of unity to young people? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
About the Author
Alongside being an author, Gerrit De Moor is the Founder and Chairman of the Belgium branch of The Virtues Project International Association. This association is a global grassroots initiative inspiring others the practice virtues in everyday life. His dream is to spark a global revolution of kindness, justice, and integrity in more than 100 countries.