Wednesday, September 13, 2006

We are more alike than different

One of the fundamental meditative principles is that we are not really separate; we are, rather, profoundly connected. It is to our great good that we dispose ourselves to remembering this great truth. Maya Angelou speaks to such an understanding in a passage from her book, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now:
Human beings are more alike than unalike, and what is true anywhere is true every-where, yet I encourage travel to as many destinations as possible for the sake of education as well as pleasure.

It is necessary, especially for Americans, to see other lands and experience other cultures. The American, living in this vast country and able to traverse three thousand miles east to west using the same language, needs to hear languages as they collide in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

A tourist, browsing in a Paris shop, eating in an Italian ristorante, or idling along a Hong Kong street, will encounter three or four languages as she negotiates the buying of a blouse, the paying of a check, or the choosing of a trinket. I do not mean to suggest that simply overhearing a foreign tongue adds to one's understanding of that language. I do know, however, that being exposed to the existence of other languages increases the perception that the world is populated by people who not only speak differently from oneself but whose cultures and philosophies are other than one's own.

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try to understand each other, we may even become friends.
Yes, we may even become friends. And how seriously that it needed today. I'm grateful for the little traveling that I've done and how that has broadened me. But even if we can't travel much, we can use our imagination. And that will go a long way toward enabling us to understand and appreciate one another.

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