Inclusive or exclusive — am I like you or different from you?

Being inclusive completes the circle of our lives – we are challenged to prioritize, to widen, and to discover our commonalities.  Believing in a common destiny. Questions for our students to ponder.

To Prioritize:

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.  When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and started to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full.  They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar.  He shook the jar lightly.   The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.  He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand.  The students laughed.

‘Now,’ said the professor, as the laughter subsided, ’I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.  The golf balls are the important values – family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions.   If everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car.

The sand is everything else — The small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued,
‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.
The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.


Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Play with your children.
Take time to get medical checkups.
Take your partner out to dinner.

There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap.

‘Take care of the golf balls first — the essentials that really matter.
Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.’

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled.
‘I’m glad ! You asked’.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.’


Questions to discuss in class:

  1. What are your three greatest values?
  2. What are three qualities or characteristics you want others to know about you?
  3. “If your philosophy doesn’t grow corn, I don’t want to hear about it. The path of power is different for every individual…It is why you are here. When I speak of power, I mean a way of working and using all your energy in a direction that allows you to become a whole person, capable of fulfilling whatever vision you are given.”   Sun Bear


To Widen:

“A human being is part of the whole called by us ‘universe,’ a part limited in time and space.  We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness.”  Albert Einstein

This definition can be a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.


Questions to discuss in class:

  1. How did you perceive others who were not like you as you were “growing up?” and what barriers did you erect between yourself and the other person(s) who was perceived to be not like you?
  2. What ideas or thoughts should you keep in mind when you encounter someone who is not like you?
  3. How have your perceptions changed? Positively and/or negatively and why?
  4. Which statement do you agree with and why: “I am different from you OR I am different like you.”
  5. “Everyone must decide whether you will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” Martin Luther King, Jr.


To Discover our Commonalities:

The sense of completion is fulfilled in our very selves like a wave that has a beginning, a development, culmination, disintegration, and end.   The waves within us are constantly moving and always in flux, yet finding completion and fulfillment. “All paths lead to the same goal: And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence, in order to read forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song – but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny.” Pablo Neruda


Questions to discuss in class:

  1. Can you understand and do you agree with the importance of being open-minded when you are interacting with others?
  2. Discuss: “We have way more to learn than what we already know.”
  3. What is your cultural heritage and how does it guide your thinking and behavior at this moment in time?
  4. How similar are we with one another in this class; how many people value what you value; and how do you find out what others value?
  5. “We join with the earth and each other: To bring new life to the land, to restore the waters, to refresh the air. We join with each other: to renew the forests, to care for the plants, to protect the creatures.  We join with each other: to celebrate the seas, to rejoice in the sunlight, to sing the song of the stars.  We join with each other: to recreate the human community, to promote justice and peace, to remember our children.  We join with each other as many and diverse expressions of one loving mystery for the healing of the earth and the renewal of all life.”  (U.N. Environmental Program).


Roger J. Vanden Busch

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