In life, do we think we’re all alike or decide that we’re in some way different? Clearly the circumstances of each person’s birth can be seen to shape their life to a fairly considerable extent but, beyond the ripple effect of that, do we see one another as essentially the same?
There are countless ways we might all seem different: appearance, age, religious or social background, geography, heritage, educational opportunities, and the base notes of personality, interests and experience. Much of that may impact our “chances” in life, the perceived assets or challenges we’re saddled with. The degree to which we can ever be free of conditioning is interesting to contemplate (see Notes One).
That seems so important to get to grips with: the ways we might appear different and the implications such differences have for the lives we lead. It’s fairly undeniable that much is set in motion by early experiences, by the situations we each step into socially, globally and personally. We may well be working through the realities of that for the rest of our lives. So, in a way, there is difference there.
And even when, broadly speaking, that’s less obvious there can still be significant differences in outlook and attitude to life (Note Two). All the ways people encounter others and the ideas of their society, culture and time must create an almost unfathomable richness of diversity, insight and awareness. Surely no two people are even remotely the same, each carrying their own unique way of being.
So, faced with the mobility of modern life and the relentless pace of change within society, it’s understandable we might struggle to appreciate the depth of human experience we’re now exposed to. Rather than the geographically limited communities of the fairly recent past – with their stable, defined relationships and clear systems of belief – we now have this incredibly open world of new experiences (Notes Three).
All that is what it is: we’re now aware of all the ways humanity has developed structures of society, belief and economic activity across the globe; we can see how prioritising our own interests almost unavoidably impacts others, so we have to decide if that’s justifiable. And, of course, all that’s going to be confronting.
It’s not like we’ve got a history of getting along easily with one another, so relating to a world of differing ideas and experiences is potentially as challenging as it is enriching. Understanding others, making room for them, accepting other conclusions about life can be difficult at the best of times (Notes Four), so having these modern conversations about our past, present and future may indeed be daunting.
On paper and in person, we might well focus on noticeable differences – labelling ourselves on that level, as is generally encouraged by modern dialogues of culture or marketing. But surely we “know” on some other level that we’re seeing others as different rather than human, that we could rise above divisions and relate on the basis of our shared humanity?
Notes and References:
Note 1: Krishnamurti’s “Inward Revolution”
Note 1: Complexity of life
Note 2: How it feels to be alive
Note 3: Community – what it was, what we lost
Note 3: The web and the wider world
Note 4: Listening, tolerance & communication