Thursday, September 6, 2007


Life has not been conducive to blogging. I have a thousand excuses: too much working at work, too much time living life instead of writing about it. It's not like I haven't had any ideas, just no luck getting them on paper. But here's something I've been thinking/talking about recently, strictly a work in progress.

I grew up in an environment where open-mindedness was tantamount to compromise. "If you don't stand for something (ie, what we stand for) you'll fall for anything (ie, the other)." I tried to do, and more importantly, feel all the "right" things, but somewhere along the line, things just didn't add up for me. It seemed less like faith and more like the ultimate intellectual arrogance to think that every tenant of my belief system composed the only truth and that everyone else was simply wrong. I spent most of my twenties struggling through all the discrepancies between teaching and experience, intuition and pragmatism. I tried to pare away all the extraneous cultural pinnings and find the core values that meant something to me. And, eventually, I have developed a hybrid of ideas around which I organize my life, the basis of which is mutual respect for differences. I'd forgotten that this is apparently a revolutionary idea.

It's easier for people to shut themselves off from the other, to cover their ears and chant to themselves what they want to hear, to judge others inferior for choices that aren't ones they'd make. This post could go in a thousand directions, a dollar a dozen example of ways I see people around me threatened by the idea of coexisting with difference. It comes down to the fear that by failing to bring the difference into submission, one might instead be changed by it. Few people seem willing to look past the surface differences of religion, culture, race, or politics to find the values that could often connect us, if we'd let them.

One place the divide has become clear is the area of religion and dating. I've dated Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, and atheists. I've never thought twice about it. I've cared more about what kind of human being he was than what philosophy he practiced. Relationships have come and gone, but not because of our religious or cultural differences. My current relationship is an inter-faith/cultural one. I respect that his religion is his culture's way of making sense of the world. I respect his right to practice his beliefs while I practice my own. I respect that, regardless of where we come from, things like love, family, honesty, and thousands of other values remain the same.

If both people in the relationship live under this assumption, then everything is great, right? Right...mostly. Except for dealing with the people around them that think all this respect and coexisting stuff is just dangerous and scary. Will each other's parents accept and support the relationship or pray their respective gods that the couple break up? What about those non-existent children? Won't they be confused if they are taught that there are multiple ways of seeing the world? Will one person's cultural and family traditions be ignored in favor of the other? And ultimately, what if one of us gets the shaft in the after-life? What then?

I'm certainly not the only one of my group of friends to experience this or similar issues. The common theme in those discussions has been that when you are in an amazing relationship, all you want are the people in your life to celebrate your good luck with you. Admittedly, in our case, most of our friends and family feel like we do and are just happy that we are happy. Honestly, I don't think it would matter either way. I'm stubborn that way. Change is slow...It amazes me that so many of the lines that once divided the world--catholic/protestant, black/white, gay/straight, conservative/liberal, wealthy/poor--still exert so much power, especially in a country that prides itself on the melding of cultures.

And the post drags on...more on this topic later.

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