We are all the same. I don’t remember the exact percentage of sameness we humans share, but it’s one of those really long decimals that takes a computer to figure out. It’s like the way we say a satellite will never fall on our head, because it’s statistically impossible … well, I think the likelihood of getting smashed by a satellite is bigger than the difference between us all as humans.
And yet that’s such a difficult thing to get our brains around. We come from different places. We have different skin colors, and languages, and customs. So we believe that we are we and they are they and we set up governments, organizations, and lines on maps to distinguish ourselves. None of that would really matter if it weren’t for the actions we take around those minor differences. Because, in the end, it’s our actions that matter, not the differences. We look at beings who are statistically exactly the same as we are and assign them monster-like qualities. We say they steal our jobs, we say they worship false gods, we call their customs barbaric, and then we turn around and do to them what we’re afraid they’ll do to us.
If a Muslim yells “Allah” as he fires his machine gun, he is an “Islamic Extremist,” while an American who kills in the name of God and Country is a patriot.
An African-American football player who plays with arrogance and aggression is called a thug, while a Caucasian hockey player who beats another player in the head is a valuable enforcer.
When immigrants move to a foreign land to feed their families they are labeled invaders, while foreign businesses that sell their products around the globe are labeled success stories.
A woman who loves another woman is labeled a sinner while men and women move from marriage to marriage like they’re in a game of musical chairs.
Why do we look for the tiniest differences while overlooking the infinite similarities? I think the answer is our deeply-seated desire to be special and unique. And we are, but our uniqueness doesn’t come from our skin color, which god we worship, or a made-up line on the map. It’s our unique perspective that makes us who we think we are.
While we are nearly identical physically, we’re entirely unique in our perception of the world and the day-to-day events in our lives. This is our special offering to each other … how we interpret the world in which we live. This is cause for celebration … a giant party where we all get together and marvel at how beings with so much in common can see the world in entirely different ways. We should be sitting around listening to each other, saying “Holy shit! You saw it like that??!!”
Instead we are waging war — verbal, ideological, and physical — with each other trying to wipe out anyone who doesn’t think just like us. This isn’t aimed at Americans, we’re all doing it and it’s been going on for a very long time. We make up a difference, we tell a really evil story about what that difference means, and then we wage war against people who we claim possess that difference. Then what happens? Every time — every time — we look back in history with embarrassment and disgust and say, “My God, how did we do that?” Unfortunately, as we say that we’re usually committing a very similar act of discrimination and hatred against some new group whose difference scares us at that moment.
What’s the answer? I think my teacher, Guru Singh, said it best when he told me that my job in life was to do two things: 1) See myself in others 2) Cause no harm Such simple advice and yet it’s totally against our nature. In fact, looking at the world today you could argue that we do exactly the opposite. We run around looking for differences and then we find a way to prove we’re superior, which usually involves harming someone. Right? If you don’t think so, just read the news and see for yourself — war, discrimination, human rights abuses, mutilation, political gridlock, and on and on. I’m not preaching here. I know full well that I often define myself by what I am not — by how I’m different from someone else. But it can’t go on. Together we have to find another way if we’re going to survive in a world of 7 billion other human beings. So today I invite you to join me in taking a step, a small step, but one that can dramatically affect our outlook on the world if we all make it a part of our practice.
Today, look for yourself in everyone you meet. When you talk to a co-worker who is fearful of being overshadowed by you, remember a time when you were afraid of being cast aside. When you interact with your child who is acting out in school, recall the moments when you have felt the need to put on a show to be seen and heard. When you get home tonight, kiss your spouse and tell them they are loved the way you want to be loved. As you watch the news and hear of extreme militants fighting for their land, remember the holidays we have to celebrate our battles for freedom. Everywhere you look, try to find yourself in the life of another.
Then go one step further. The most important step. Find the part of you that doesn’t like you. All those facets of your own personality that you secretly don’t admire, the embarrassing moments, the times you’ve lashed out and hurt someone, the decisions you regret and the thoughts you try to push aside. Get in touch with that part of you and tell yourself that you are loved just the way you are. Accept all that stuff, the baggage and the shit you’re trying to work through … and just say, “I love you” to yourself.
And then go out and share that love with the world … remembering that everyone in this world is you.
Big hugs of love,