Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Other

Why are you afraid of me?

When we first meet, do you see me as a new friend? Are you open to me, unless I demonstrate otherwise? Do you see me as a potential threat, until I reassure you over time by proving I am trustworthy? Or Is there an underlying protectiveness in you that assumes at some point I will betray your trust?

Perhaps our skins are a different color. We are of different height, weight, hair color and shapes. Maybe we are a different gender – or perhaps my gender is not what it once was and you thought gender was a permanent thing. Do my physical shortcomings, scars, disabilities, or ravages of disease make you uncomfortable, make you feel more vulnerable to being damaged in your future? If I look different than you, I likely have had different experiences than you. Are you afraid to learn about my experiences because sometimes they make you question your own experiences?

The world is a multi-ethnic place. It is likely that, over the centuries, our many ancestors came from very different places. Places with very different histories of their existence and their relationships with others. Those histories are in my physical and mental DNA, as are yours. Do the histories of my ancestral past threaten you today, afraid that past conflicts will reemerge in this lifetime, directed towards you?

I grew up in a family other than yours. A family shaped by a different culture of perspectives, traditions, rituals, religious views, and ways of conducting business. My formal educational path may have been more or less than yours, and certainly followed a different path. The things I have seen and done are unlike what you have seen and done. My memories are different than yours; my current life is different than yours. Are you interested in what I have seen and done? Are you interested in my stories, in my point of view that has resulted from my stories? Or do you find it difficult to understand my stories and views simply because they do not correspond to your stories and views. Is it too difficult to make the effort or find the time necessary to make these more understandable to you? Does understanding our differences unduly take time and energy away from your schedule and priorities?

My birthplace is likely different from yours. Where I have been and lived since my birth is probably also different, especially if you stayed rooted in one location for most of your life. In this world there are numerous species of plant and animal life; high mountains and low valleys; green forests, expansive plains, desolate deserts; frigid winters and oppressive summers; ocean beaches, river sandbars, lakeside playgrounds; big cities, small towns, and rural isolation. The visuals in my mind’s eye are in real contrast to the visuals in your mind. Can we share those visuals somehow, and be insightful about how these pictures affected us so differently?

I speak differently than you. The words I use, the pronunciation of them (“my accent”), the way I use them to form sentences, are part of my own background and uniqueness. Just because we speak differently does not necessarily mean that what we are saying is substantially different. If our speech is different, does it necessarily mean that our thoughts are different?

You say that you are not afraid of me. Yet you avoid spending time with me unless caused by unavoidable circumstances. You cross the street to avoid passing me. You choose to stay in an enclave of similarity rather than puncture that enclave with diversity. You expend much effort trying to make me change my beliefs and life choices to match yours. Maybe you resent others who are similar to me who you feel take advantage of your good will; why do you paint all of us with one brush? Does your avoidance of knowing me mask a fear you do not acknowledge?

Am I simply “the Other?” Do our differences make you inherently afraid of me? Afraid just because I am different? Do my differences make you feel self-conscious or defensive regarding who you are? Or challenge you about what you believe? We do not have to be alike, you know. We do not have to agree, or need to tell each other what to do. We do not have to convince each other that one of us is “right” and the other is “wrong.” I do not have to change my life to be as yours, nor you to change to be as me. Two divergent paths can almost always find a pathway in the middle for us to travel together.

My life choices are not a criticism or negation of yours. We are just different. That is what we share in common. We can find that commonality if we choose to, and thereby stop fighting with each other, stop being afraid of each other. Are we willing to support and accept each of us being who we are? Can we simply live side-by-side with each other in mutual respect? It will take effort and openness from each of us. Are we afraid to make that effort? To make “The Other” into “One Another?”

I ask these many questions of you. But will I be honest enough to also ask them of myself?

©   2017   Randy Bell               www.OurSpiritualWay.blogspot.com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A different tone and style here - I thought the series of questions most effective - for the reader as well as the writer. Much to ponder, as always.