Striking a Balance Between Diversity and Unity of Perspectives

Muh. Syahrul Padli
6 min readFeb 5, 2024

(Muh. Syahrul Padli — Reflection Series)

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Our world is filled with a lack of new meaning or new interpretation. True love sets you free. Everyone has the same potential to be success. Everyone should have dreams. These are all examples of common meanings in society.

But wait, are they true?

The word “meaning” I use may be a bit unusual. I intentionally use this word to create a specific term.

My hope is that it can represent the spirit of this writing, which takes the worldview that humans are complex beings and cannot be fully understood just by the law of nature. Humans are also beings who seek meaning or purpose in their existence in the world.

Let me explain my intention further.

Meaning is the process of evaluating, interpreting, and responding to something.

Let me give you an example: the government.

We can interpret the government as a group of people who run a system and have the power to regulate society. We can also interpret it as a symbol of power.

The process of evaluating the government is a series of steps to conclude the ‘nature’ of the government from each individual’s perspective.

Before concluding, we first collect data. We can observe, feel, or simply hear from other people and the media. The result of this methodology (whether consciously or unconsciously) is meaning.

There are a lot form of meaning. It can be values, principles, a basis for thinking, and so on. But the point is, meaning will ultimately fall into two categories. First, it will be personal for those who have the ability to think or contemplate. Second, for those who don’t use their thinking skill and choose to just believe it, meaning can be uniformed. It can be instilled through certain methods repeatedly.

The meaning for the second category can come from anywhere. It can be from a philosophy that is considered to be the truth, a culture that is considered to have noble values so that it does not need to be re-examined more critically, the force of authority, or even the agreement of society at a certain time.

Meaning has a central value because it can influence actions or at least only affect the scale of priorities to be cared about.

You interpret that life is happiness. You hear this from an influencer in Instagram. You start to believe it. And then you start to pursue your own version of happiness.

In a certain period of time, that is how you interpret the world and get the meaning of life. And that meaning can change when you are confronted with reality or realize that you do not have the same privileges as your idol.

There are many meanings that we can review from our surroundings. Many people choose to believe it without question.

Ideally, the world should be defined by a diversity of perspectives, interpretations, and varied meanings. In this way, people will become authentic and unique based on their experiences.

Unfortunately, our world is more likely to value uniformity of meaning. The closest example to our lives is the uniformity of meaning about good and bad, what is allowed and not allowed, and so on.

The question then arises: will such uniformity lead to better understanding or will it cause rigidity and loss of the richness of human information?

Uniformity, in the context of meaning, can be seen as a two-sided coin. On the one hand, having a shared understanding of values, ethics, and the meaning of life can create a solid foundation for social harmony. On the other hand, diversity of perspectives brings innovation, creativity, and unlimited cultural growth.

A world filled with uniformity may lose the vibes and colors provided by individual differences. But that is the world we are in now. Or maybe that is the world I feel right now.

I am controlled by the “assumptions” and “guesses” of people’s judgments. Maybe this is what is on A’s mind. B might think that I am this kind of person. In fact, people may not care and have time to pay attention to me.

The reason for this is public perception and collective meaning, which sometimes changes level to general truth. Unfortunately, very few people try to fight back by giving different meanings.

To be more clear, I will give an example based on my experiece using Instagram. When I post an achievement, some people use the meaning that what I do is showing off or creating a personal branding for being ideal in social media. In fact, there are other meanings: it is a way for me to motivate myself, it is a way for me to silence others who have doubted me, it is a way to have a memory, it is a way to tell the people I care about that I are grateful.

Even if I show off and create an personal branding, why is it interpreted as a bad thing? Is that the only meaning there is? What if showing off and creating an image is actually a way for me to upgrade myself? For example, I want to show off my cinematography skills after taking a course or experimenting so that people who have the same passion can also be challenged. For example, showing off and creating an personal branding is also a way for me to make fun of arrogant people out there. For example, showing off and creating a personal branding in social media is a way for me to tell myself that it is just one phase in life, that as long as someone doesn’t stop learning, they can reach a new level of understanding.

But maybe we are not used to seeing and interpreting things differently by the system. And that can be dangerous in some ways.

The Danger of Homogeneity of Meaning

Culture, art, and ideology usually thrive in environments rich in differences. Eliminating variation in perspectives can lead to stagnation and lack of evolution in human thought.

In fact and in the real world, the exchange of diverse cultures and meanings is the key to progress and development. Although there are terms and conditions.

At the national level, if the majority of citizens have an average national IQ of 78.54, freedom is not a wise choice. The society that can be responsible for its freedom is certainly very small because the concept of our freedom should not interfere with the freedom of others will be difficult to understand. Unfortunately, the authoritarian attitude of power is no wiser either. What can be done is to find the balance.

But let’s ignore that for now. Let’s assume that the country we are in allows for it.

Understanding life from different perspectives enriches our experience, inspires innovation, and builds bridges of tolerance for societies to interact openly.

Uniformity in meaning can limit the space for cultural exchange and hinder the transformation process that can lead to a better direction.

Meaning also reflects individual identity. Each person brings their own background, experiences, and personal values that influence the way they understand their surroundings.

In a uniform world, the risk of losing individual identity becomes a reality. People may feel limited in their self-expression and lose the sense of difference that makes them unique.

While there is a framework for shared understanding, society must remain open to change and adaptation. This requires the ability to accept and appreciate differences, while maintaining the core values that underpin life together.

One way to manage this paradox is to create space for open dialogue and exchange of ideas. People can listen to each other, learn from each other, and absorb different perspectives without having to sacrifice individual identity.

Diverse meanings can be a source of intellectual and emotional wealth for society.

Getting Involved in Education

Education has a key role in shaping a person’s meaning of the world. Therefore, education should promote diversity of perspectives and teach the importance of valuing differences. Thus, future generations will have a broader and more inclusive understanding of the world.

In the diversity of meanings, society can support creativity and innovation. By valuing differences, we can create an environment where new ideas can flourish, innovative solutions can emerge, and the world can continue to transform towards a better direction.

In understanding the paradox of a world filled with uniform meaning or perspective, we must maintain a balance between diversity and uniformity.

Without diversity, the world becomes flat and monotonous. Without uniformity, we may lose the ability to unite and work together. Therefore, it is important to appreciate and embrace differences, making the world a place rich in color and meaning.

Education is the place where we should be able to provide the next generation with the tools to interpret the world on their own and then find a compromise between difference and uniformity.

Takalar, 5 Februari 2024

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Muh. Syahrul Padli

A Science Teacher, Head of Penghayat Sumur Community and Digital-Creative worker. co-Founder YT Bawah Pohon Science (an alternative education platform).