We all sometimes feel just so damn different from others. Like strangers in a strange land.
And we are. All of us are different. All of us are unique. And that’s a good thing – I’m studying this concept in my analysis/attempted discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
But… at the same time, we are all the same. There are actually more similarities than differences. These similarities cross all sorts of lines: race, gender, class, intellectual ability, sexual orientation, even species. More and more, we are seeing just how similar all of life is.
That’s a good thing. Without our “sameness”, we wouldn’t be able to cooperate. Without the understanding that we all basically want the same things – to survive, to thrive, to be happy – we would never have gotten beyond life in the jungle and the caves.
Different people have different strategies, some constructive and some destructive, but they are all intended toward those same ends – survival, thriving, happiness.
Some of us have strategies that are based on the differences, geared toward the destruction (or at the very least separation) of themselves from others. This can happen on a small scale, like when I just want the person across the hall in my apartment building to leave me alone. This can happen on a large scale, when one group has decided that the best thing for them is to wipe out all of those who are different.
This is a really crappy strategy. It may allow for survival in the short term, but a closed system cannot grow, and will break down once a new survival strategy is needed.
Others do it differently. They open themselves up to others, learn about them, cooperate with them, and love them. This is how we grow as a race, as a gender, as a group with a sexual orientation, as those blessed with intelligence, as a class, or as a species.
In the society that I live in (and much of the world), power has been concentrated in the hands of a certain combination of the things I listed above: the white, cisgender male, straight, intelligent, upper class, financially well off human being. The way that they came to and stayed in power was by using a combination of the two strategies – taking what they needed from the other groups while keeping their boots on their necks.
Me? I fall into four out of six of those “power categories”. I recognize that because I do, if life were a video game, I’d be playing on easy-mode (not my concept – and I really wish I could find my source for that idea).
This isn’t a single player game. It’s massive, it’s multiplayer, and we’re all on the same team. People like me, no matter how much they feel like they are losing when someone in another group gets something, really aren’t, and it’s my responsibility to use what I have to help my overall team – not just those who are “like me”, but all of them.
This isn’t some benevolent version of the White Man’s Burden. It’s a recognition of the privilege I’ve been given and my desire to walk hand in hand with my team – all of the residents of this Pale Blue Dot.
At the very least, I can stay out of their way.
You aren’t so different from “the others”. You aren’t an alien. The fact that you can read this tells us that we are more like each other than we can ever understand.
Express your uniqueness, while also celebrating the things that allow us to move forward – our differences.