This I Believe
I believe in differences. Not simply that differences exist, because we all know they do; but that differences are what makes the world, and therefore our very lives, so very interesting. Diversity. Variety. Assortment. Range, mixture and selection. Array. I value all the wonderful ways of displaying and marking our differences, and marvel at the richness of those qualities. This is what adds zest and spontaneity to our lives — to my life.
Differences motivate our best scientific research, energize our intrepid explorers, and steer inquiry into social issues; but it’s also what wins or loses ball games for the old home team, as well as what draws us to this person rather than that. I am who I am because of my differences; but in the world we all would like to have, I interact and dance with “the other” despite our differences. Respecting diversity, reaching out even while remaining aware that others are not exactly like me, sometimes not even remotely like me, brings out my very best. I believe that differences are what make us human in the first place.
I believe that appreciation of difference is critical for me to understand my world. As a child, I first individuated from my siblings and then my parents. I matured and differed from my friends and neighbors in dozens of ways. If opposites do attract, then diversity brought me dating, romance, love and personal commitments. The differences carried in my very genes brought a new little person into my own family, who then grew up to reveal, and revel in, his own uniqueness. Differences channeled my search for spirituality, guided my choices of partner, pets and professions, and continue to inform my preferences in food, hobbies, and vacation spots. I shrink from the blandness that would be my life without diversity, without all these spectacular differences.
Yes, it’s true, differences do sometimes frighten people. A frightened person, seeking to deny his fear of “the other,” strikes out and tries to hold at a distance whatever he cannot make like himself. Thus we have conflict, fights and wars. But differences, once explored, also contain new and intriguing information, and offer excellent opportunities to broaden our perspectives, to embrace rather than battle with “the other.” This recognition gently provokes in me new ways to look at things, new things to look at altogether, new avenues to help resolve my own conflicts, foster my relationships, handle my worldly affairs, learn new skills, read new books, and safeguard my environment.
I try to ask, “How is that person different from me?” as the more reasonable question, the more pertinent question, than asking, “Why are they not like me?” It is through exploring this splendid spectrum of diversity that I believe I finally will come to a more complete understanding of myself. And by more fully understanding myself, I can more fully enjoy my own diversity, and more abundantly cherish that spirit which resides in “the other.”
It is for all these reasons, and many, many others, that I firmly and passionately believe in differences.
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